Sources of polychlorinated biphenyls to Devils Swamp Lake near Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Scientific Investigations Report 2006-5301

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Devils Swamp Lake near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, created in 1973 by dredging in Devils Swamp along the Mississippi River, is contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from historical industrial discharges. This study involved the investigation of the occurrence, distribution, and sources of PCBs in the lake, including the possible historical contribution of PCBs from a hazardous-chemical disposal facility by way of a wastewater drainage ditch that was used from 1971 to 1993. Six bed sediment cores from the lake and three bed sediment grab samples from the drainage ditch were collected; 61 subsamples from selected intervals in five of the six cores and the three grab samples from the ditch were analyzed for PCBs using an immunoassay screening method. Sixteen of the core subsamples and one ditch sample were analyzed for organochlorine pesticides, PCBs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) (15 samples), and major and trace elements. PCB congener profiles and a factor analysis of congener composition indicate that PCBs in sediment from the drainage ditch and in lake sediment deposited near the canal since the mid-1980s are similar, which indicates the disposal facility, by way of the wastewater drainage ditch, is the source of the PCBs. Sediment from several hundred meters down the lake to the west, near where Bayou Baton Rouge enters the lake, had a different PCB composition and in a sample deposited in the early 1980s, a much higher concentration, indicating a second source of PCBs in the watershed of Bayou Baton Rouge. Large differences in PAHs and metals between sediment near the ditch and sediment near Bayou Baton Rouge support this conclusion. The identity of the Bayou Baton Rouge source(s) cannot be established using available data. The short duration and relatively high concentrations of PCBs from the bayou source indicate either a spill or a flood-related release-there was a large flood on the Mississippi River in 1983. Older (deeper) samples from cores near the drainage ditch (dated as deposited before the mid-1980s) had PCB compositions that indicate a mixture of sources (Bayou Baton Rouge and the drainage ditch). Elevated PCB concentrations in sediment from the drainage ditch and cores from near the mouth of the ditch in recent (post-2000) samples indicate that some PCB inputs from the ditch might still be occurring.

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USGS Numbered Series
Sources of polychlorinated biphenyls to Devils Swamp Lake near Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Texas Water Science Center
iii, 50 p.
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