Assessment of sediment toxicity and chemical concentrations in the San Diego Bay region, California, USA



Sediment quality within San Diego Bay, Mission Bay, and the Tijuana River Estuary of California was investigated as part of an ongoing statewide monitoring effort (Bay Protection and Toxic Cleanup Program). Study objectives were to determine the incidence, spatial patterns, and spatial extent of toxicity in sediments and porewater; the concentration and distribution of potentially toxic anthropogenic chemicals; and the relationships between toxicity and chemical concentrations. Rhepoxynius abronius survival bioassays, grain size, and total organic carbon analyses were performed on 350 sediment samples. Strongylocentrotus purpuratus development bioassays were performed on 164 pore-water samples. Toxicity was demonstrated throughout the San Diego Bay region, with increased incidence and concordance occurring in areas of industrial and shipping activity. Trace metal and trace synthetic organic analyses were performed on 229 samples. Copper, zinc, mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, and chlordane were found to exceed ERM (effects range median) or PEL (probable effects level) sediment quality guidelines and were considered the six major chemicals or chemical groups of concern. Statistical analysis of the relationships between amphipod toxicity, bulk phase sediment chemistry, and physical parameters demonstrated few significant linear relationships. Significant differences in chemical levels were found between toxic and nontoxic responses using multivariate and univariate statistics. Potential sources of anthropogenic chemicals were discussed.