Effect of receiving environment on the transport and fate of polybrominated diphenyl ethers near two submarine municipal outfalls



The fate of contaminants entering the marine environment through wastewater outfalls depends on the contaminant's persistence and affinity for particles. However, the physical characteristics of the receiving environment, for example, current velocity and sedimentary processes, may be even more important. Because of the complexity of natural settings and the lack of appropriate comparative settings, this is not frequently evaluated quantitatively. The authors investigated the near-field accumulation of particle-reactive polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) entering coastal waters by way of two municipal outfalls: one discharging into a high-energy, low-sedimentation environment near Victoria, BC, Canada; the other into a low-energy, high-sedimentation environment, near Vancouver, BC. The authors used 210Pb profiles in box cores together with an advection-diffusion model to determine surface mixing and sedimentation rates, and to model the depositional history of PBDEs at these sites. Surprisingly, 88 to 99% of PBDEs were dispersed beyond the near-field at both sites, but a greater proportion of PBDEs was captured in the sediment near the Vancouver outfall where rapid burial was facilitated by inorganic sediment supplied from the nearby Fraser River. Although the discharge of PBDEs was much lower from the Victoria outfall than from Vancouver, some sediment PBDE concentrations were higher near Victoria. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2012;31:566–573. © 2011 SETAC