Levels and patterns of PAH distribution in sediments from New York/New Jersey Harbor Complex

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Northeastern geology and environmental sciences


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; molecular composition; New York Harbor, sediment tracers


Dated surface sediment samples representing 1990's deposition were collected to establish spatial distribution and concentration levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the New York /New Jersey (NY/NJ) Harbor complex. Total PAH concentrations (rPAH, the sum of 16 EPA priority PAHs) range from 900 to 80,200 ng/g dry weight. The highest PAH levels were observed in sediments from Newtown Creek, which receives the effluent of a large wastewater treatment plant. Central Park Lake sediments had a high rPAH level (14,500 ng/g) due to the low sediment accumulation rate at this location. Four molecular ratios, Fl/(Fl+Py) (fluoranthene/fluoranthene + pyrene), Par/(Par+Alkyl) (ratio of parental PAHs to their respective parental plus alkylated homologues), Ring456/TPAH (proportion of high mass 4-6 ring PAHs to total PAH), and C/(C0+C1)F/P (ratio of parental Fl, Py series) were significantly correlated. There are poor correlations between these four ratios and the ratios of anthracene/(phenanthrene+anthr acene), benz(a)anthracene/(benz(a)anthracene+chrysene), and C/(C0+C1)P/A (ratio of parental Pa/A series). The four well-correlated ratios indicate that although combustion-derived PAHs are dominant at all areas, some contributions from petroleum are apparent in Kill van Kull and mainstem Hudson samples.