Contaminant inputs from wastewater discharge, a major source of contamination to Santa Monica Bay (SMB), have declined drastically during the last three decades as a result of improved treatment processes and better source control. To assess the concomitant temporal changes in the SMB sediments, a study was initiated in June 1997, in which 25 box cores were collected using a stratified random sampling design. Five sediment strata corresponding to the time intervals of 1890-1920, 1932-1963, 1965-1979, 1979-1989, and 1989-1997 were identified using 210Pb dating techniques. Samples from each stratum were analyzed for metals, 1,1,1-Trichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethane (DDT) and its metabolites (DDTs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and total organic carbon (TOC). Samples from the 1965-1979, 1979-1989, and 1989-1997 strata were also analyzed for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and linear alkylbenzenes (LABs). Sediment metal concentrations increased from 1890-1979 and were similar during the time intervals of 1965-1979, 1979-1989, and 1989-1997, although the mass emissions of trace metals from sewage inputs declined substantially during the same time period. Trace organic contamination in SMB was generally highest in sediments corresponding to deposition during the years of 1965-1979 or 1979-1989 and showed a decline in concentration in the 1989-1997 stratum. Temporal trends of contamination were greatest in sediments collected from areas near the Hyperion Treatment Plant (HTP) outfall system and on the slope of Redondo Canyon. The highest contaminant concentrations were present in sediments near the HTP 7-mile outfall in the 1965-1979 stratum. Elevated trace metal and organic concentrations were still present in the 1989-1997 stratum of most stations, suggesting that sediment contaminants have moved vertically in the sediment column since sludge discharges from the 7-mile outfall (a dominant source of contamination to the bay) ceased in 1987. The widespread distributions of DDTs and PCBs in SMB and highly confined distribution of LABs around the HTP outfall system were indicative of a dispersal mechanism remobilizing historically deposited contaminants to areas relatively remote from the point of discharge. ?? 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.