PCB congener dynamics in a heavily industrialized river catchment

Andrew A Meharg, Julian Wright, Graham J L Leeks, Paul D Wass, Philip N Owens, Des E Walling, Daniel Osborn

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21 Citations (Scopus)


PCB congener concentrations in the water column of a highly industrialized river catchment, the Aire/Calder, in N.E. England were determined weekly on a routine basis, and 2 hourly through selected high flow (flood) events. Bed, suspended and floodplain sediment PCB congener concentrations were also determined along transects of the rivers investigated. Weekly monitoring revealed that the sum of 11 quantified (Sigma11) PCBs rose in concentration by two orders of magnitude during late summer compared to their winter minimum values. This rise was concurrent with sustained periods of low flow. SigmaPCB concentrations were rapidly diluted during high flow (flood) events. Suspended sediment was, on average, 13 times more contaminated with PCBs than bed sediment, with means of 4.0 and 53.8 ng/g, respectively, while floodplain samples had an intermediate concentration of 29.8 ng/g. Principle components analysis (PCA) of congener profiles showed that all three sediment types were similar, but that congener profiles differed considerably between sediment and whole-water samples. There was no change in the percentage contribution of individual PCB congeners apparent from weekly whole-water monitoring. However, the congener pattern in whole-waters changed systematically during high flow events. PCA showed that whole-water samples collected during high flow events had progressively more sediment characteristics, and then returned to whole-water characteristics on cessation of the event. The PCA evidence, dilution of PCB concentrations during events, and suspended sediments more contaminated than bed sediments, indicate that the major sources of PCBs in this catchment are current inputs from sewage treatment works, rather than remobilization of bed sediments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)439-50
Number of pages12
JournalThe Science of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Environmental Science


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