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Comparison of Streambed Sediment and Aquatic Biota as Media for Characterizing Trace Elements and Organochlorine Compounds in the Willamette Basin, Oregon

By Dennis A. Wentz, Ian R. Waite, and Frank A. Rinella

Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, v. 51, p. 673-693


During 1992-93, 27 organochlorine compounds (pesticides plus total PCB) and 17 trace elements were analyzed in bed sediment and aquatic biota from 20 stream sites in the Willamette Basin as part of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Water-Quality Assessment Program. Data from each medium were compared to evaluate their relative effectiveness for assessing occurrence (broadly defined as documentation of important concentrations) of these constituents. Except for Cd, Hg, Se, and Ag, trace element concentrations generally were higher in bed sediment than in biota. Conversely, although frequencies of detection for organochlorine compounds in biota were only slightly greater than in bed sediment, actual concentrations in biota (normalized to lipid) were as much as 19 times those in sediment (normalized to organic carbon). Sculpin (Cottus spp.) and Asiatic clams (Corbicula fluminea), found at 14 and 7 sites, respectively, were the most widespread taxa collected during the study. Concentrations of trace elements, particularly As and Cu, were typically greater in Asiatic clams than in sculpin. In contrast, almost half of the organochlorine compounds analyzed were found in sculpin, but only DDT and its degradation products were detected in Asiatic clams; this may be related to the lipid content of sculpin, which was about three times higher than for clams. Thus, the medium of choice for assessing occurrence depends largely on the constituent(s) of interest.

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