The Hanalei River on the island of Kaua'i in Hawai'i was designated an American Heritage River in 1998, providing special attention to natural resource protection, economic revitalization, and historic and cultural preservation. Agricultural, urban, and tourism-related activities are potential sources of contamination within the Hanalei River watershed. The objective of this study was to measure certain persistent organic chemicals and elements in the Hanalei River.
During a relatively low-flow period in December of 2001, samples of native Akupa sleeper fish (Eleotris sandwicensis), freshwater Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea), giant mud crab (Scylla serrata), surface water, and stream bed sediment were collected from a lower estuarine reach of the river near its mouth at Hanalei Bay and from an upper reach at the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge. Samples were analyzed for residues of urban and agricultural chemicals including organochlorine pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and elements (including mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, and selenium). Organic contaminants were extracted from the samples with solvent, enriched, and then analyzed by gas chromatographic analysis with electron capture or mass spectrometric detection. Samples were acid-digested for semi-quantitative analysis for elements by inductively-coupled plasma-mass spectrometry and for quantitative analysis by atomic absorption spectrophotometry.
Concentrations of organochlorine pesticides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and polychlorinated biphenyls in biota, surface water, and bed sediment sampled from the Hanalei River ranged from nondetectable to very low levels. Polychlorinated biphenyls were below detection in all samples. Dieldrin, the only compound detected in the water samples, was present at very low concentrations of 1-2 nanograms per liter. Akupa sleeper fish and giant mud crabs from the lower reach ranged from 1 to 5 nanograms per gram (wet weight) dieldrin and from less than 0.3 to 2.1 nanograms per gram total chlordane. Concentrations of individual polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the lower reach bed sediments ranged from less than 1 to 190 nanograms per gram (dry weight). Relative concentrations (patterns) of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in one portion of a sediment sample indicated combustion sources. Concentrations of elements in the surface water, biota, and sediment samples were below toxicity thresholds of ecological concern. In summary, concentrations of the organic contaminants and elements targeted by this study of the Hanalei River in 2001 were below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency probable adverse effects levels for aquatic organisms.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Survey of Chemical Contaminants in the Hanalei River, Kaua'i, Hawai'i, 2001