Large discharges of wastewater and particulate matter from the outfalls of the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts onto the Palos Verdes shelf since 1937 have produced an effluent-affected sediment deposit characterized by low bulk density, elevated organic matter content, and a high percentage of fine silt and clay particles relative to underlying native sands and sandy silts. Comparison of the results of grain-size analyses using a gentle wet-sieving technique that preserves certain grain aggregates to the results of standard size analyses of disaggregated particles shows that high percentages (up to 50%) of the silt and clay fractions of the effluent-affected mud are incorporated in aggregates having intermediate diameters in the fine-to-medium sand size range (63-500 ??m), Scanning electron microscope images of the aggregates show that they are predominantly oval fecal pellets or irregularly shaped fragments of pellets. Deposit-feeding polychaete worms such as Capitella sp. and Mediomastus sp., abundant in the mud-rich effluent-affected sediment on Palos Verdes shelf, are probably responsible for most of the grain aggregates through fecal pellet production. Particle settling rates and densities, and the concentrations of organic carbon and p,p???-DDE, a metabolite of the hydrophobic pesticide DDT, were determined for seven grain-size fractions in the effluent-affected sediment. Fecal pellet grain densities ranged from about 1.2 to 1.5 g/cc, and their average settling rates were reduced to the equivalent of about one phi size relative to spherical quartz grains of the same diameter. However, repackaging of fine silt and clay grains into the sand-sized fecal pellets causes an effective settling rate increase of up to 3 orders of magnitude for the smallest particles incorporated in the pellets. Moreover, organic carbon and p,p???-DDE exhibit a bimodal distribution with relatively high concentrations in the finest size fraction (0-20 ??m), as expected, and a second concentration peak associated with the sand-sized fecal pellets. The repackaging of fine-grained particles along with their adsorbed chemical compounds into relatively fast-settling pellets has important implications for the mobilization and transport of the sediment and the desorption of chemicals from grain surfaces. ?? 2002 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.
Additional publication details
Physical and chemical effects of grain aggregates on the Palos Verdes margin, southern California