Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 24, Issue 30, pp 23549–23558 | Cite as

Risk assessment and interpretation of heavy metal contaminated soils on an urban brownfield site in New York metropolitan area

  • Yu Qian
  • Frank Gallagher
  • Yang Deng
  • Meiyin Wu
  • Huan Feng
Research Article


In this study, soil samples were collected at 22 sites in Liberty State Park, New Jersey, in 2005, for metal enrichment and potential ecological risk assessment. The geoaccumulation index (I geo) showed that enrichment levels of trace metals followed an order of Cu > Pb > Zn > As > Cr > Hg while the potential ecological risk factor (\( {E}_r^i \)) indicated that the potential ecological risk of the metals was in the order of Cu > Pb > As > Hg > Zn > Cr. Among these 22 sites, this investigation identified 9 sites at moderate ecological risk, 3 sites at considerable ecological risk, and 4 sites at high ecological risk according to the potential ecological risk index (RI). Hierarchical cluster analysis (CA) of soil metal concentrations separated the study sites into four groups, which are supported by the significant difference in RI values. Geographically, three regions in the Liberty State Park brownfield site were determined based on the CA results and RI values. Subarea 1 had low ecological risk while subareas 2 and 3 had a greater potential for ecological risk. Significant correlations of Pb with Cr and Zn were observed in subareas 2 and 3, respectively. This study shows that statistical approaches coupled with a risk assessment index provide a more comprehensive interpretation of land contamination than a single approach in support of planning land redevelopment.


Brownfield Heavy metal Soil risk index Statistical analysis Contamination assessment 



This work was supported in part by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (G.F.), China Scholarship Council (Y.Q., CSC No. 2010613063), and Margaret and the Herman Sokol Foundation (H.F.).We wish to thank Dr. Peddrick Weis, Theodore Proctor, and Francis Kemp of the Rutgers School of Biomedical and Health Sciences for soil metal analysis. We would also like to thank Dr. Ildiko Pechmann for her invaluable assistance in chemical analysis and interpretation of the results. We are grateful to Professor Zhihong Xu, Editor of Environmental Science and Pollution Research, and an anonymous reviewer, who offered constructive comments and suggestions on an earlier version of this manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical statement

The manuscript submitted to ESRP has not been submitted to more than one journal for simultaneous consideration. The manuscript is based on our original work and has not been published previously. No data in this manuscript were fabricated or manipulated (including images) to support the conclusions. All the references were properly cited to acknowledge other work. Consent to submit this manuscript has been received explicitly from all co-authors. Authors whose names appear on the submission have contributed sufficiently to the scientific work and therefore share collective responsibility and accountability for the results. The research did not involve any human participants and/or animals.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Ecology and Environmental SciencesYunnan UniversityKunmingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of Earth and Environmental StudiesMontclair State UniversityMontclairUSA
  3. 3.Department of Landscape Architecture, Urban Forestry Laboratory, RutgersThe State University of New JerseyNew BrunswickUSA
  4. 4.Department of Biology and MicrobiologyMontclair State UniversityMontclairUSA

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