Linear alkylbenzenes (LABs) are sensitive source-specific tracers of sewage inputs to the marine environment. Because they are highly particle reactive and nonspecifically sorbed to organic matter, LABs are potential tracers of the transport of both sludge-derived organic matter and other low solubility hydrophobic contaminants (e.g., PCBs and PAHs); sediment trap studies at the 106-Mile Site have shown LABs to be valuable in testing models of sludge deposition to the sea floor. In this study we report on the distributions of LABs, PCBs, PAHs, and Ag in surface sediments collected within a month of the complete cessation of dumping (July, 1992) in the vicinity of the dump site. Total LAB concentrations were lower than those measured by Takada and coworkers in samples from nearby sites collected in 1989. LABs from both studies appear to be significantly depleted (6 to 25-fold) in surface sediments relative to excess Ag (another sludge tracer) when compared to sewage sludge and sediment trap compositions. Comparison of LAB sediment inventories to model predictions of sludge particle fluxes supports the contention that LABs have been lost from the bed. The use of LABs to examine the short-or long-term fate of sludge derived materials in deep-sea sediments should be questioned. The causes of this LAB depletion are unclear at this point, and we discuss several hypotheses. The concentrations of total PCBs and PAHs are both correlated with sludge tracers, suggesting that there may be a measurable contribution of sludge-derived inputs on top of other nonpoint sources of these contaminant classes. This possibility is consistent with the composition of these contaminants determined in recent and historical analyses of sewage sludge.
Additional publication details
Linear alkylbenzenes as tracers of sewage-sludge-derived inputs of organic matter, PCBs, and PAHs to sediments at the 106-mile deep water disposal site