Environmental contamination in Castle Harbour, Bermuda, has been linked to the dissolution and leaching of contaminants from the adjacent marine landfill. This study expands the evidence for environmental impact of leachate from the landfill by quantitatively demonstrating elevated metal uptake over the last 30 years in corals growing in Castle Harbour. Coral Pb/Ca, Zn/Ca and Mn/Ca ratios and total Hg concentrations are elevated relative to an adjacent control site in John Smith's Bay. The temporal variability in the Castle Harbour coral records suggests that while the landfill has increased in size over the last 35 years, the dominant input of metals is through periodic leaching of contaminants from the municipal landfill and surrounding sediment. Elevated contaminants in the surrounding sediment suggest that resuspension is an important transport medium for transferring heavy metals to corals. Increased winds, particularly during the 1990s, were accompanied by higher coral metal composition at Castle Harbour. Coupled with wind-induced resuspension, interannual changes in sea level within the Harbour can lead to increased bioavailability of sediment-bound metals and subsequent coral metal assimilation. At John Smith's Bay, large scale convective mixing may be driving interannual metal variability in the coral record rather than impacts from land-based activities. Results from this study provide important insights into the coupling of natural variability and anthropogenic input of contaminants to the nearshore environment.
Additional publication details
Environmental assessment of metal exposure to corals living in Castle Harbour, Bermuda