Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, 156:51

First online:

Using the Sediment Quality Triad to characterize baseline conditions in the Anacostia River, Washington, DC, USA

  • Beth L. McGeeAffiliated withUS Fish and Wildlife Service, Chesapeake Bay, Field OfficeChesapeake Bay Foundation
  • , Alfred E. PinkneyAffiliated withUS Fish and Wildlife Service, Chesapeake Bay, Field Office Email author 
  • , David J. VelinskyAffiliated withAcademy of Natural Sciences—Patrick Center
  • , Jeffrey T. F. AshleyAffiliated withAcademy of Natural Sciences—Patrick Center
  • , Daniel J. FisherAffiliated withWye Research and Education Center, University of Maryland
  • , Leonard C. FerringtonAffiliated withDepartment of Entomology, University of Minnesota
  • , Teresa J. Norberg-KingAffiliated withMid-Continent Ecology Division, US Environmental Protection Agency

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The Sediment Quality Triad (SQT) consists of complementary measures of sediment chemistry, benthic community structure, and sediment toxicity. We applied the SQT at 20 stations in the tidal portion of the Anacostia River from Bladensburg, MD to Washington, DC to establish a baseline of conditions to evaluate the effects of management actions. Sediment toxicity was assessed using 10-day survival and growth tests with the freshwater amphipod, Hyalella azteca and the midge, Chironomus dilutus. Triplicate grabs were taken at each station for benthic community analysis and the Benthic Index of Biotic Integrity (B-IBI) was used to interpret the data. Only one station, #92, exhibited toxicity related to sediment contamination. Sediments from this station significantly inhibited growth of both test species, had the highest concentrations of contaminants, and had a degraded benthic community, indicated by a B-IBI of less than 3. Additional sediment from this station was tested and sediment toxicity identification evaluation (TIE) procedures tentatively characterized organic compounds as the cause of toxicity. Overall, forty percent of the stations were classified as degraded by the B-IBI. However, qualitative and quantitative comparisons with sediment quality benchmarks indicated no clear relationship between benthic community health and contaminant concentrations. This study provides a baseline for assessing the effectiveness of management actions in the Anacostia River.


Anacostia River Sediment Quality Triad Benthic community Toxicity identification evaluation