The New York/New Jersey Harbor Estuary is subject to significant contamination of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from numerous sources, including the historically contaminated Upper Hudson River, stormwater runoff and sewer overflows, and atmospheric deposition from PCBs originating from the surrounding urban area. However, the relative importance of these sources to the estuary's food web is not fully understood. Sources of PCBs to the estuary were apportioned using chiral signatures of PCBs in air, water, total suspended matter, phytoplankton, and sediment. PCBs 91, 95, 136, and 149 were racemic in the atmosphere of the estuary. However, the other phases contained nonracemic PCB 95 and to a lesser extent PCB 149. Thus, the predominant atmospheric source of these congeners is likely unweathered local pollution and not volatilization from the estuary. The similarity in chiral signatures in the other phases is consistent with dynamic contaminant exchange among them. Chiral signatures in the dissolved phase and total suspended matter were correlated with Upper Hudson discharge, suggesting that the delivery of nonracemic contaminated sediment from the Upper Hudson, not the atmosphere, controls phytoplankton uptake of some PCBs. Thus, measures to control PCB contamination in the Upper Hudson should be effective in reducing loadings to the estuary's aquatic ecosystem.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Chemistry