Resuspension of polychlorinated biphenyl-contaminated field sediment: release to the water column and determination of site-specific KDOC



Sediments from the New Bedford Harbor (NBH) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) Superfund site (Massachusetts, USA), contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), were resuspended under different water column redox conditions: untreated, oxidative, and reductive. The partitioning of PCBs to the overlying water column was measured with polyethylene samplers and compared to partitioning without resuspension. Greater concentrations of total aqueous (freely dissolved + dissolved organic carbon (DOC)-associated) PCBs were found in all resuspended treatments for PCBs with mid-range KOWs, but no difference was observed in total aqueous concentrations among different redox conditions. The magnitude of increased concentrations depended on resuspension time and congener KOW, but ranged from approximately one to eight times those found without resuspension. In a parallel study, DOC was flocculated and removed from smaller-scale NBH sediment resuspensions. In situ KDOCs were determined and used to calculate freely dissolved and DOC-associated fractions of the increase in total aqueous PCB concentrations due to resuspension. The importance of DOC-associated PCBs increased with increasing KOW. In situ KDOCs were approximately one to two orders of magnitude greater than those calculated with a commonly used linear free energy relationship (LFER). The present study demonstrates that resuspension of contaminated sediments releases PCBs to the water column, of which a significant fraction are DOC-associated (e.g., 28, 65, and 90% for PCBs 28, 66, and 110, respectively). Results also imply that site-specific PCB KDOCs are superior to those calculated with generic LFERs. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2011;30:377–384. © 2010 SETAC