Streambed-sediment samples from 13 sites and biological-tissue samples from 11 sites in the Gila River Basin in central Arizona were analyzed for 32 organochlorine compounds in streambed sediment and 28 compounds in biological tissue during 1996 as part of the U.S. Geological Survey‘s National Water-Quality Assessment program. The objectives of the study were to determine the occurrence and distribution of organochlorine compounds and their relation to land use. Sampling sites were categorized on the basis of major land uses in the basin or the source of water in the stream. Because land uses were mixed or had changed over time, some land-use categories were combined. Sites were categorized as forest/rangeland (6), forest/urban (1), urban (4), or agricultural/urban (2).
Thirteen organochlorine compounds were detected in streambed-sediment samples, and 10 were detected in tissue samples. The number of compounds found in streambed-sediment samples from individual sites ranged from 0 to 10, and the range for individual tissue samples was 0 to 7. Comparison of the number of detections in streambed-sediment samples to the number of detections in tissue samples from particular sites where both were sampled yielded five instances where more compounds were detected in streambed sediment, six instances where more compounds were detected in tissue, and five instances where the number of detections in streambed sediment and tissue were equal.
The frequency of detection of particular compounds for sites where both streambed sediment and tissue were sampled resulted in five compounds being detected more frequently in streambed sediment, five more frequently in tissue, and three compounds that were equally frequent in streambed sediment and in tissue. Few contaminants were detected in samples from the forest/rangeland sites; greater numbers of compounds were detected at the urban sites and at the forest/urban site. The greatest number of compounds and the highest concentrations of many contaminants were detected at agriculture/urban sites. The compound detected most frequently in streambed-sediment and tissue samples was p,p‘-DDE.
Streambed-sediment guideline values for the protection of aquatic life for p,p‘-DDE and total DDT were exceeded at both agricultural/urban sites, The streambed-sediment guideline value for the protection of aquatic life for total chlordane was exceeded at one agricultural/urban site, one urban site, and the forest/urban site. The streambed-sediment guideline value for the protection of aquatic life for total PCB’s was exceeded at one agricultural/urban site.
Guideline values for the protection of fish-eating wildlife for total DDT and for toxaphene were exceeded only in samples from the two agricultural/urban sites. The guideline value for the protection of fish-eating wildlife for total PCB’s was equaled or exceeded in samples from two sites—one urban and one agricultural/urban site.
Screening values established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the protection of human health for edible portions of fish were exceeded by total DDT and by toxaphene in fish-tissue samples from both agricultural/urban sites. The human-health criterion for total PCB’s was exceeded in two fish-tissue samples from an agricultural site and from an urban site. Tissue samples analyzed in this study were for whole fish, and thus, concentration data are not entirely comparable to the screening values of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Because these exceedences were an order of magnitude above the criteria, however, it is possible that concentrations in the edible portions of fish from these locations could present a human- health risk. Analyses of samples of edible portions of fish from these locations would be needed to adequately assess the presence or absence of a human-health risk.
The similarity of the results of this study to the results of other studies of organochlorine compounds in the environment suggests that there is a correlation between contaminants in sediment and biological-tissue samples and land uses. As with other studies of the occurrence and distribution of organochlorine contaminants in streambed sediments and biological tissue, this study shows that many organochlorine compounds continue to persist in the environment and thus could pose a threat to aquatic life, fish-eating wildlife, and possibly to humans who consume contaminated fish.