A river-wide survey of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and selected organochlorine pesticide residues in sediments of the Detroit River - 1999

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Great Lakes Research





First Page


Last Page



The spatial distribution of hydrophobic organic contaminants, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and octachlorostyrene (OCS) in sediments of the Detroit River was established using data from a 1999 river-wide survey. The survey employed a stratified random sampling design that divided the river into six geostatistical zones consisting of upper, middle, and lower U.S. and equivalent Canadian river reaches. Organic carbon normalized OCS sediment concentrations demonstrated no significant differences between U.S. or Canadian sediments or upstream/downstream gradients suggesting that OCS is derived primarily from sources upstream of the Detroit River. In contrast, sum PCBs and sum PAHs were significantly elevated at U.S. as compared to Canadian stations and demonstrated significant increasing upstream/downstream gradients in organic carbon normalized sediment contamination. The upper and middle U.S. river reaches contained a number of near-shore stations with high localized PCB and PAH sediment concentrations suggesting multiple inputs along the upper U.S. portion of the river. Consistent with past surveys, wide-spread sediment contamination of PCBs and PAHs continues to be observed in the highly industrialized Trenton Channel and downstream of Grosse Isle. Threshold effect level (TEL) sediment quality guidelines for PAHs and PCBs were exceeded in 92.6 and 77.8%, respectively, of stations in Trenton Channel and downstream of Grosse Isle. This large reservoir of degraded sediments in the lower U.S. river reach has the potential to enter Lake Erie during sediment disturbance events and likely contributes to gentoxic stress and increased bioaccumulation of PCBs in resident benthos, fish, and wildlife.