, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 213-225

Sediment quality of the Neuse River estuary, North Carolina: an integrated assessment of sediment contamination, toxicity, and condition of benthic fauna

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Abstract

A study of ecological conditions associatedwith bottom sediments in the Neuse Riverestuary, U.S.A. was undertaken during summer1998. Sampling of macroinfauna, sedimentsfor toxicity and chemical contaminant analyses,and physical properties of water was carriedout synoptically over a four-day period at 20stations from the mouth of the Neuse River atPamlico Sound to approximately 90 km upstream. The distribution and condition of benthicinfauna were found to vary in response tonatural and anthropogenic factors, and apparentassociations between degraded infaunalcondition and sediment contamination and/ortoxicity were observed over roughly half of thesampled area (7 stations, 47% area). With fewexceptions, degraded benthic conditions wereassociated with significant sedimentcontamination or toxicity. High sedimentcontaminant levels were found to occur almostexclusively in fine-grained, organic-rich muds. These results suggest that high organic loadingand chemical contaminant inputs to the NeuseRiver, coupled with low freshwater dischargerates and high residence times in the lowerestuary, have contributed to degraded benthicconditions at these sites.