Elevated levels of trace elements and hydrophobic organic compounds were detected in streambed sediments and aquatic biota [Asiatic clam (Corbicula fluminea) or bottom-feeding fish] of the Sacramento River Basin, California, during October and November 1995. Trace elements detected included cadmium, copper, mercury, lead, and zinc. Elevated levels of cadmium, copper, and zinc in the upper Sacramento River are attributed to a mining land use, and elevated levels of zinc and lead in an urban stream, and possibly in the lower Sacramento River, are attributed to urban runoff processes. Elevated levels of mercury in streambed sediment are attributed to either past mercury mining or to the use of mercury in past gold mining operations. Mercury mining was an important land use within the Coast Ranges in the past and gold mining was an important land use of the Sierra Nevada in the past. Mercury was the only trace element found in elevated levels in the tissue of aquatic biota, and those levels also could be attributed to either mining or urban runoff. Hydrophobic organic compounds also were detected in streambed sediments and aquatic biota. The most frequently detected compounds were DDT and its breakdown products, dieldrin, oxychlordane, and toxaphene. Differences were found in the types of compounds detected at agricultural sites and the urban site. Although both types of sites had measurable concentrations of DDT or its breakdown products, the urban site also had measurable concentrations of pesticides used for household pest control. Few semivolatile compounds were detected in the streambed sediments of any site. The semivolatile compound p-cresol, a coal-tar derivative associated with road maintenance, was found in the highest concentration.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Trace elements and organic compounds in streambed sediment and aquatic biota from the Sacramento River Basin, California, October and November 1995
Water-Resources Investigations Report
U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey ;
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