Organcochlorine compounds, semivolatile-organic compounds (SVOC), and trace elements were analyzed in reservoir sediment cores, streambed sediment, and fish tissue in the Santa Ana River Basin as part of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Water-Quality Assessment Program. Three reservoirs were sampled in areas that have different degrees of urbanization. Streambed sediment and fish tissue collected at 12 sites were divided into two groups, urban and nonurban. More organochlorine compounds were detected in reservoir sediment cores, streambed sediment and fish tissue, and at higher concentrations at urban sites than at nonurban sites. At all sites, except West Street Basin, concentrations of organochlorine compounds were lower than the probable-effect concentration (PEC). At the highly urbanized West Street Basin, chlordane and p,p'-DDE exceeded the PEC throughout the historical record. The less stringent threshold-effect concentration (TEC) was exceeded for six compounds at eight sites. Most of the organochlorine compounds detected in streambed sediment and fish tissue were at urban sites on the Santa Ana River as opposed to its tributaries, suggesting accumulation and persistence in the river.
More SVOCs were detected in reservoir sediment cores and streambed sediment, and at higher concentrations, at urban sites than at nonurban sites. At all the sites, except West Street Basin, concentrations of SVOCs were lower than the PEC. At West Street Basin, chrysene, pyrene, and total polycyclic-aromatic hydrocarbons exceeded the PEC throughout the historical record. The TEC was exceeded for 10 compounds at 3 sites. Most of the SVOCs were detected in streambed sediment at urban sites on tributaries to the Santa Ana River rather than the mainstem itself. The less frequent occurrence and lower concentrations in the Santa Ana River suggest that SVOCs are less persistent than organochlorine compounds, possibly as a result of volatization, gradation, or dilution.
Most trace-element detections in reservoir sediment cores and streambed sediment were at urban sites, and the concentrations were generally higher than at nonurban sites. Lead and zinc exceeded their PECs at West Street Basin throughout the historical record; copper exceeded its PEC at Canyon Lake, an area of urban growth. The TEC was exceeded for 10 compounds at 11 sites. Frequency of detection and concentration did not differ between tributary and Santa Ana River sites, which may be attributed to the fact that trace elements occur naturally. Four trace elements (arsenic, copper, mercury, and selenium) had higher concentrations in fish tissue at nonurban sites than at urban sites.
Concentrations decreased over time for organochlorine compounds at all three reservoirs, probably a result of the discontinued use of many of the compounds. Decreasing trends in SVOCs and trace elements were observed at West Street Basin, but increasing trends were observed at Canyon Lake. Concentrations of organochlorine compounds, SVOCs, and trace elements were higher during periods of above average rainfall at both West Street Basin and Canyon Lake.