The St. Louis Bay of Lake Superior receives substantial urban runoff, wastewater treatment plant effluent, and industrial effluent. In 1987, the International Joint Commission designated the St. Louis Bay portion of the lower St. Louis River as one of the Great Lakes Areas of Concern. Concerns exist about the potential effects of chemicals of emerging concern on aquatic biota because many of these chemicals, including endocrine active chemicals, have been shown to affect the endocrine systems of fish. To determine the occurrence of chemicals of emerging concern in the St. Louis River, the St. Louis Bay, and Superior Bay, the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources collected water and bottom-sediment samples from 40 sites from August through October 2010. The objectives of this study were to (1) identify the extent to which chemicals of emerging concern, including pharmaceuticals, hormones, and other organic chemicals, occur in the St. Louis River, St. Louis Bay, and Superior Bay, and (2) identify the extent to which the chemicals may have accumulated in bottom sediment of the study area. Samples were analyzed for selected wastewater indicators, hormones, sterols, bisphenol A, and human-health pharmaceuticals. During this study, 33 of 89 chemicals of emerging concern were detected among all water samples collected and 56 of 104 chemicals of emerging concern were detected in bottom-sediment samples. The chemical N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET) was the most commonly detected chemical in water samples and 2,6-dimethylnaphthalene was the most commonly detected chemical in bottom-sediment samples. In general, chemicals of emerging concern were detected at a higher frequency in bottom-sediment samples than in water samples. Estrone (a steroid hormone) and hexahydrohexamethyl cyclopentabensopyran (a synthetic fragrance) were the most commonly detected endocrine active chemicals in water samples; beta-sitosterol (a plant sterol), estrone, and 4-tert-octylphenol (an alkylphenol) were the most commonly detected endocrine active chemicals in bottom-sediment samples. The greater detection frequency of chemicals in bottom-sediment samples compared to the detection frequency in water samples indicates that bottom sediment is an important sink for chemicals of emerging concern. At least one polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon was detected in every sample; and in most samples, all nine polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons included in analyses were detected. Bottom sediment collected from Superior Bay had the most polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon detections of the sediment sampling locations.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Presence of selected chemicals of emerging concern in water and bottom sediment from the St. Louis River, St. Louis Bay, and Superior Bay, Minnesota and Wisconsin, 2010