Sediment traps are being used in some pollution monitoring programs in the USA to sample suspended solids for contaminant analyses. This monitoring approach assumes that the characteristics of solids obtained in sediment traps are the same as those collected in whole-water sampling devices. We tested this assumption in the upper Mississippi River, based on the inorganic particle-size distribution (determined with a laser particle- analyzer) and volatile matter content of solids (a surrogate for organic matter). Cylindrical sediment traps (aspect ratio 3) were attached to a rigid mooring device and deployed in a flowing side channel in Navigation Pool 7 of the upper Mississippi River. On each side of the mooring device, a trap was situated adjacent to a port of an autosampler that collected raw water samples hourly to form 2-d composite samples. Paired samples (one trap and one raw water, composite sample) were removed from each end of the mooring device at 2-d intervals during the 30-d study period and compared. The relative particle collection efficiency of paired samplers did not vary temporally. Particle-size distributions of inorganic solids from sediment traps and water samples were not significantly different. The volatile matter content of solids was lesser in sediment traps (mean, 9.5%) than in corresponding water samples (mean, 22.7%). This bias may have been partly due to under-collection of phytoplankton (mainly cyanobacteria), which were abundant in the water column during the study. The positioning of water samplers and sediment traps in the mooring device did not influence the particle-size distribution or total solids of samples. We observed a small difference in the amount of organic matter collected by water samplers situated at opposite ends of the mooring device.
Additional publication details
A comparison of solids collected in sediment traps and automated water samplers