In 2002-03, the U.S. Geological Survey collected samples of streambed sediment at 18 sites in the lower Chena River watershed for analysis of selected nutrients, traces elements, and organic compounds. The purpose of the project was to provide Federal, State, and local agencies as well as neighborhood committees, with information for consideration in plans to improve environmental conditions in the watershed. The exploratory sampling program included analysis of streambed sediment from the Chena River and Chena Slough, a tributary to the Chena River. Results were compared to streambed-sediment guidelines for the protection of aquatic life and to 2001-02 sediment data from Noyes Slough, a side channel of the lower Chena River.
The median total phosphorus concentration in Chena Slough sediment samples, 680 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg), was two orders of magnitude greater than median total phosphorus concentration in Chena River sediment samples of 5.2 mg/kg. Median concentrations of chloride and sulfate also were greater in Chena Slough samples. Low concentrations of nitrate were detected in most of the Chena Slough samples; nitrate concentrations were below method reporting limits or not detected in Chena River sediment samples.
Streambed-sediment samples were analyzed for 24 trace elements. Arsenic, nickel, and zinc were the only trace elements detected in concentrations that exceeded probable-effect levels for the protection of aquatic life. Concentrations of arsenic in Chena Slough samples ranged from 11 to 70 mg/kg and concentrations in most of the samples exceeded the probable-effect guideline for arsenic of 17 mg/kg. Arsenic concentrations in samples from the Chena River ranged from 9 to 12 mg/kg. The background level for arsenic in the lower Chena River watershed is naturally elevated because of significant concentrations of arsenic in local bedrock and ground water. Sources of elevated concentrations of zinc in one sample, and of nickel in two samples, are unknown. With the exception of elevated arsenic levels in samples from Chena Slough, the occurrence and concentration of trace elements in the streambed sediments of Chena Slough and Chena River were similar to those in Noyes Slough sediment.
Sediment samples were analyzed for 78 semivolatile organic compounds and 32 organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Low concentrations of dimethylnaphthalene and p-Cresol were detected in most Chena Slough and Chena River sediment samples. The number of semivolatile organic compounds detected ranged from 5 to 21 in most Chena Slough sediment samples. In contrast, three or fewer semivolatile organic compounds were detected in Chena River sediment samples, most likely because chemical-matrix interference resulted in elevated reporting limits for organochlorine compounds in the Chena River samples. Low concentrations of fluoranthene, pyrene, and phenanthrene were detected in Chena Slough sediment. Relatively low concentrations of DDT or its degradation products, DDD and DDE, were detected in all Chena Slough samples. Concentrations of total DDT (DDT+DDD+DDE) in two Chena Slough sediment samples exceeded the effectsrange median aquatic-life criteria of 46.1 micrograms per kilogram (ug/kg). DDT concentrations in Chena River streambed-sediment samples were less than 20 ug/kg. Low concentrations of PCB were detected in two Chena Slough streambed-sediment samples. None of the concentrations of the polychlorinated biphenyls or semivolatile organic compounds for which the samples were analyzed exceeded available guidelines for the protection of aquatic life. With the exception of elevated total DDT in two Chena Slough samples, the occurrence and concentration of organochlorine compounds in Chena Slough and Chena River sediment were similar to those in samples collected from Noyes Slough in 2001-02.
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USGS Numbered Series
Occurrence of Selected Nutrients, Trace Elements, and Organic Compounds in Streambed Sediment in the Lower Chena River Watershed near Fairbanks, Alaska, 2002-03