Occurrence and concentrations of selected trace elements and halogenated organic compounds in stream sediments and potential sources of polychlorinated biphenyls, Leon Creek, San Antonio, Texas, 2012–14

Scientific Investigations Report 2016-5039
Prepared in cooperation with the San Antonio River Authority
By:

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Abstract

The Texas Department of State Health Services issued fish consumption advisories in 2003 and 2010 for Leon Creek in San Antonio, Texas, based on elevated concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in fish tissues. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) measured elevated PCB concentrations in stream-sediment samples collected during 2007–9 from Leon Creek at Lackland Air Force Base (now known as Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland; the sampling site at this base is hereinafter referred to as the “Joint Base site”) and sites on Leon Creek downstream from the base. This report describes the occurrence and concentrations of selected trace elements and halogenated organic compounds (pesticides, flame retardants, and PCBs) and potential sources of PCBs in stream-sediment samples collected from four sites on Leon Creek during 2012–14. In downstream order, sediment samples were collected from Leon Creek at northwest Interstate Highway 410 (Loop 410), Rodriguez Park, Morey Road, and Joint Base. The USGS periodically collected streambed-sediment samples during low flow and suspended-sediment samples during high flow.

Trace element concentrations were low compared to the consensus-based sediment-quality guidelines (SQGs) for the threshold effect concentration (TEC) and probable effect concentration (PEC). Adverse effects to benthic biota are not expected at concentrations less than the TEC and are expected at concentrations greater than the PEC. No trace element concentrations were greater than the PEC in any of the samples. Trace element concentrations were greatest at the Morey Road and Joint Base sites and exceeded the TECs by 41 and 27 percent, respectively. Trace element concentrations were lowest at the Rodriguez Park and Loop 410 sites and exceeded the TECs by 18 and 14 percent, respectively.

Pesticides that have been banned for several decades are commonly detected in Leon Creek stream sediments, particularly the chlordane compounds. Chlordane compounds were detected in 84 percent of the samples and at every sample collection site. The samples collected from the Rodriguez Park site had the most pesticide compounds detected. Only samples collected from the Joint Base site had dichlorodiphenyldichloroethane (DDD), dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE), or dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) concentrations greater than the TEC, and a few were also greater than the PEC.

Flame retardants were found at every site on Leon Creek where stream sediments were collected; however, a few compounds were frequently detected in the laboratory reagent blanks so their detections in the environmental samples may not be from local sources. Consensus-based SQGs were not available for flame retardants so samples were compared to Environment Canada Federal Environmental Quality Guidelines (FEQGs). The concentrations of flame retardants generally were greater in the suspended-sediment samples than the streambed-sediment samples and greater than the FEQGs in many cases.

Eighteen PCB congeners were quantified in the sediment samples collected from Leon Creek. The samples collected from the Joint Base site had the most frequent PCB congener detections. Total PCB concentrations, computed as the sum of the 18 congeners by using the Kaplan-Meier method for left-censored environmental data, were much smaller than the TEC of 59.8 micrograms per kilogram (μg/kg). When detected, the concentrations of total PCBs in the stream-sediment samples collected from Leon Creek during 2012–14 ranged from an estimated 0.2 to 8.7 μg/kg.

Sediment samples collected from Leon Creek by the USGS during 2007–9 and 2012–14 at a total of eight sites following identical field and laboratory methods were evaluated to determine if potential PCB sources could be identified. Total PCB concentrations in the sediment samples collected upstream from the Joint Base site were low or nondetections; while concentrations in the samples collected on and downstream from the Joint Base site were greater. Congeners 180 and 138 constituted the greatest proportion of the PCB mixture in samples collected upstream from, on, and downstream from the Joint Base site. Upstream from the Joint Base site, congeners 180 and 138 constituted 50 percent and 35 percent respectively of the PCBs congeners found in the samples. On and downstream from the Joint Base site, congeners 180 and 138 constituted 80 percent and 13 percent respectively of the PCBs congeners found in the samples. Chi-square (C2) tests also indicate that samples collected from the Loop 410 site were statistically different from samples collected from the Joint Base site and sites downstream. The PCB congener pattern in the Leon Creek samples is most like the congener mixture in Aroclor 1260, which is chemically similar to the PCBs detected in the fish samples that resulted in the 2003 fish consumption advisory.

Suggested Citation

Wilson, J.T., 2016, Occurrence and concentrations of selected trace elements and halogenated organic compounds in stream sediments and potential sources of polychlorinated biphenyls, Leon Creek, San Antonio, Texas, 2012–14: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2016–5039, 99 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/sir20165039.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

ISSN: 2328-031X (print)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Concentrations and Occurrence of Selected Trace Elements and Halogenated Organic Compounds
  • Potential Sources of Polychlorinated Biphenyls
  • Summary
  • References Cited

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Occurrence and concentrations of selected trace elements and halogenated organic compounds in stream sediments and potential sources of polychlorinated biphenyls, Leon Creek, San Antonio, Texas, 2012–14
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2016-5039
DOI 10.3133/sir20165039
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Texas Water Science Center
Description viii, 99 p.
First page 1
Last page 99
Country United States
State Texas
City San Antonio
Other Geospatial Leon Creek
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N