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Osmium isotopes demonstrate distal transport of contaminated sediments in Chesapeake Bay

Environmental Science and Technology

By:
, , , , , ,
DOI: 10.1021/es9913986

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Abstract

Because the isotopic composition of anthropogenic Os is normally distinctive in comparison to continental crust and is precisely measurable, this platinum-group element is attractive as a tracer of transport pathways for contaminated sediments in estuaries. Evidence herein and elsewhere suggest that biomedical research institutions are the chief source of anthropogenic Os. In the Chesapeake Bay region, uncontaminated sediments bear a crustal 187Os/188Os signature of 0.73 ?? 0.10. Slightly higher 187Os/188Os ratios occur in Re-rich Coastal Plain deposits due to post- Miocene 187Re decay. The upper Susquehanna Basin yields sediments also with higher 187Os/188Os. Beginning in the late 1970s, this signal was overprinted by a low 187Os/188Os (anthropogenic) source in the lower Susquehanna Basin. In the vicinity of Baltimore, which is a major center of heavy industry as well as biomedical research, anthropogenic Os has been found only in sediments impacted by the principal wastewater treatment plant. Surprisingly, a mid-Bay site distant from anthropogenic sources contains the strongest anthropogenic Os signal in the data set, having received anthropogenic Os sporadically since the mid-20th Century. Transport of particles to this site overrode the northward flowing bottom currents. Finding anthropogenic Os at this site cautions that other particle-borne substances, including hazardous ones, could be dispersed broadly in this estuary.Because the isotopic composition of anthropogenic Os is normally distinctive in comparison to continental crust and is precisely measurable, this platinum-group element is attractive as a tracer of transport pathways for contaminated sediments in estuaries. Evidence herein and elsewhere suggest that biomedical research institutions are the chief source of anthropogenic Os. In the Chesapeake Bay region, uncontaminated sediments bear a crustal 187Os/188Os signature of 0.73 ?? 0.10. Slightly higher 187Os/188Os ratios occur in Re-rich Coastal Plain deposits due to post-Miocene 187Re decay. The upper Susquehanna Basin yields sediments also with higher 187Os/188Os. Beginning in the late 1970s, this signal was overprinted by a low 187Os/188Os (anthropogenic) source in the lower Susquehanna Basin. In the vicinity of Baltimore, which is a major center of heavy industry as well as biomedical research, anthropogenic Os has been found only in sediments impacted by the principal wastewater treatment plant. Surprisingly, a mid-Bay site distant from anthropogenic sources contains the strongest anthropogenic Os signal in the data set, having received anthropogenic Os sporadically since the mid-20th Century. Transport of particles to this site overrode the northward flowing bottom currents. Finding anthropogenic Os at this site cautions that other particle-borne substances, including hazardous ones, could be dispersed broadly in this estuary.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Osmium isotopes demonstrate distal transport of contaminated sediments in Chesapeake Bay
Series title:
Environmental Science and Technology
DOI:
10.1021/es9913986
Volume
34
Issue:
12
Year Published:
2000
Language:
English
Publisher:
ACS
Publisher location:
Washington, DC, United States
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
First page:
2528
Last page:
2534
Number of Pages:
7