Sediment Quality of Estuaries in the Southeastern U.S.
- Cite this article as:
- Hyland, J.L., Snoots, T.R. & Balthis, W.L. Environ Monit Assess (1998) 51: 331. doi:10.1023/A:1005959907969
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A study was conducted to assess the condition of estuaries in the EMAP Carolinian Province (Cape Henry, VA - St. Lucie Inlet, FL). Synoptic measures of sediment contamination, toxicity, and macroinfaunal condition were made at 82 and 86 stations in 1994 and 1995, respectively, in accordance with a probabilistic sampling design. These data were used to estimate percentages of degraded vs. undegraded estuarine area from the perspective of sediment quality. Each year a sizable portion of the province (36% in 1994, 51 % in 1995) showed some evidence of either degraded benthic assemblages, contaminated sediments in excess of bioeffect guidelines, or significant sediment toxicity (based on Ampelisca abdita and Microtox® assays). However, co-occurrences of a degraded benthos and adverse exposure conditions (sediment contamination and/or toxicity) were much less extensive – 17% of the province in 1994 and 25% in 1995. Each year only four sites, representing 5% of the province in 1994 and 8% in 1995, had degraded infauna accompanied by both sediment contamination and toxicity, suggesting that strong contaminant-induced effects on the benthos (based on such combined weight-of-evidence) were limited to a fairly small percentage of estuarine area province-wide. PCBs and pesticides (lindane, dieldrin, DDT and derivatives) were the most dominant contaminants over the two-year period. The broad-scale sampling design of EMAP was not intended to support detailed characterizations of potential pollutant impacts within individual estuaries. Thus, some estuaries classified as undegraded may include additional degraded portions outside the immediate vicinity of randomly sampled sites. Such localized impacts (not accounted for in the above estimates) were detected in this study at additional nonrandom supplemental sites near potential contaminant sources.