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Identification of acute toxicants in new bedford harbor sediments

Authors

  • Kay T. Ho,

    Corresponding author
    1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Atlantic Ecology Division, 27 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett, Rhode Island 02882
    • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Atlantic Ecology Division, 27 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett, Rhode Island 02882
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  • Richard A. McKinney,

    1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Atlantic Ecology Division, 27 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett, Rhode Island 02882
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  • Anne Kuhn,

    1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Atlantic Ecology Division, 27 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett, Rhode Island 02882
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  • Marguerite C. Pelletier,

    1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Atlantic Ecology Division, 27 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett, Rhode Island 02882
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  • Robert M. Burgess

    1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Atlantic Ecology Division, 27 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett, Rhode Island 02882
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Abstract

New Bedford Harbor (NBH) is a marine Superfund site contaminated with high concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and metals. Experiments were conducted to determine the causal toxic agent(s) in pore waters from New Bedford Harbor sediments to amphipods and mysid shrimp. Chemical manipulations to characterize toxicity revealed that pore-water toxicity was organic in nature. Fractionation and subsequent mass spectral identification of peaks in the toxic fraction indicated that PCBs, PAHs, and unknown compounds were present. Comparisons of PAH LC50s and PAH concentrations in this fraction indicated that the toxicity was not due to PAHs because the PAH concentrations were much lower than the reported PAH LC50s. One unknown peak was positively identified as bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, and the other tentatively identified as pyrazole. Toxicity tests and comparison of toxicity in the blank and toxic fractions eliminated the two “unknowns” as toxic causal agents. We determined the range of PCB LC50s to fall between 10 and 110 ppb for Mysidopsis bahia and Ampelisca abdita. Concentrations of PCBs for the toxic fractions ranged from 12 to 27 ppb. This range falls within our observed PCB LC50s for M. bahia and A. abdita. Based upon these PCB concentrations, we concluded that PCBs were the acute toxic agents in NBH pore waters. Other compounds in the toxic fractions, or compounds that coeluted and were undistinguished from PCBs had minor contributions to the measured toxicity.

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