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Assessment Quantifies Extent of Sediment Contamination, Toxicity in Chesapeake Bay

The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) has released “Magnitude and Extent of Contaminated Sediment and Toxicity in Chesapeake Bay“, a report that provides chemical contaminant and benthic organism information useful for management planning efforts and understanding the Bay ecosystem. Sediment contaminants often pose ecological and human health risks through degraded habitats, loss of fauna, accumulation in the coastal food chain, and human consumption of fish and wildlife.

NCCOS researchers collected sediment samples from the Bay between 1998 and 2001 to determine where and how severely the sediments are contaminated by toxic chemicals, including metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), persistent chlorinated pesticides and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). They also studied benthic organisms to determine their distribution in the study area, and conducted laboratory studies to assess the toxicity of the sediments to estuarine organisms.

While a major finding is that most of the main portion of the Chesapeake Bay is relatively uncontaminated, the analyses showed localized, elevated contaminant levels in Baltimore and Norfolk Harbors, the Susquehanna Flats, the deep trough areas west of Kent Island and south of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and the Hart Miller Island area.

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