Concentrations and Loads of Organic Compounds and Trace Elements in Tributaries to Newark and Raritan Bays, New Jersey

Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5059
Prepared for the New Jersey Toxics Reduction Workplan for NY-NJ Harbor Ambient Monitoring of Loading to Major Tributaries at Head-of-Tide Study I-C
By:  and 



A study was undertaken to determine the concentrations and loads of sediment and chemicals delivered to Newark and Raritan Bays by five major tributaries: the Raritan, Passaic, Rahway, Elizabeth, and Hackensack Rivers. This study was initiated by the State of New Jersey as Study I-C of the New Jersey Toxics Reduction Workplan for the New York-New Jersey Harbor, working under the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary Program (HEP) Contaminant Assessment and Reduction Program (CARP). The CARP is a comprehensive effort to evaluate the levels and sources of toxic contaminants to the tributaries and estuarine areas of the NY-NJ Harbor, including Newark and Raritan Bays. The Raritan and Passaic Rivers are large rivers (mean daily discharges of 1,189 and 1,132 cubic feet per second (ft3/s), respectively), that drain large, mixed rural/urban basins. The Elizabeth and Rahway Rivers are small rivers (mean daily discharges of 25.9 and 49.1 ft3/s, respectively) that drain small, highly urbanized and industrialized basins. The Hackensack River drains a small, mixed rural/urban basin, and its flow is highly controlled by an upstream reservoir (mean daily discharge of 90.4 ft3/s). These rivers flow into urbanized estuaries and ultimately, to the Atlantic Ocean. Each of these tributaries were sampled during two to four storm events, and twice each during low-flow discharge conditions. Samples were collected using automated equipment installed at stations adjacent to U.S. Geological Survey streamflow-gaging stations near the heads-of-tide of these rivers. Large-volume (greater than 50 liters of water and a target of 1 gram of sediment), flow-weighted composite samples were collected for chemical analysis using filtration to collect suspended particulates and exchange resin (XAD-2) to sequester dissolved contaminants. Composite whole-water samples were collected for dissolved polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and for trace element analysis. Additional discrete grab samples were collected throughout each event for trace-element analysis, and multiple samples were collected for suspended sediment (SS), particulate carbon (POC), and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) analysis. The suspended sediment and exchange resin were analyzed for 114 polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs, by US EPA method 1668A, modified), seven 2,3,7,8-substituted chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (CDD) and 10 dibenzo-p-difurans (CDF) (by US EPA method 1613), 24 PAHs (by low-resolution isotope dilution/mass-spectral methods), 27 organo-chlorine pesticides (OCPs) (by high resolution isotope dilution/mass-spectral methods), and the trace elements mercury (Hg), methyl-mercury (MeHg), lead (Pb), and cadmium (Cd). Isotope dilution methods using gas chromatography and high-and low-resolution mass spectral (GC/MS) detection were used to accurately identify and quantify organic compounds in the sediment and water phases. Trace elements were measured using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry and cold-vapor atomic fluorescence spectrometry methods. The loads of sediment, carbon, and chemicals were calculated for each storm and low-flow event sampled. Because only a few storm events were sampled, yearly loads of sediment were calculated from rating curves developed using historical SS and POC data. The average annual loads of sediment and carbon were calculated for the period 1975-2000, along with the loads for the selected water years being modeled as part of the New York New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program CARP. Comparison of loads calculated using the rating curve method to loads measured during the sampled storm events indicated that the rating curve method likely underpredicts annual loads. Average annual loads of suspended sediment in the tributaries were estimated to be 395,000 kilograms per year (kg/yr) in the Hackensack River, 417,000 kg/yr in the Elizabeth River, 882,000 kg/yr in the Rahway River, 22,700,000 kg/yr in the Passaic River, and 93,100,000 kg/yr in the Raritan River. Averag

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Concentrations and Loads of Organic Compounds and Trace Elements in Tributaries to Newark and Raritan Bays, New Jersey
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2007-5059
DOI 10.3133/sir20075059
Edition -
Year Published 2007
Language ENGLISH
Publisher Geological Survey (U.S.)
Contributing office(s) New Jersey Water Science Center
Description xii, 177 p.
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N