Receiving environment shapes transport and bioaccumulation of polybrominated diphenyl ethers near two submarine municipal outfalls




Dinn, Pamela

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The fate and bioaccumulation of a contaminant entering the marine environment through wastewater outfalls depends on the contaminant’s persistence and affinity for particles. The physical characteristics of the receiving environment, e.g. current velocity, sedimentary processes, and the availability of organic carbon are also important. However, these latter effects are not usually evaluated quantitatively. This thesis investigates the near-field accumulation in sediment and biota of particle-reactive polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) entering coastal waters via two municipal outfalls: one discharging into a high energy, low sedimentation environment near Victoria, B.C., Canada; the other into a low energy, high sedimentation environment near Vancouver, B.C. We used 210Pb profiles in sediment box cores together with an advection-diffusion model to determine surface mixing and sedimentation rates, and to model the depositional history of PBDEs at these sites. A particularly important finding of this study is that the very high energy environment to the southeast of the Victoria outfall accumulates PBDEs despite not having net sediment accumulation. Although the discharge of PBDEs was much lower from the Victoria outfall than from Vancouver, some sediment PBDE concentrations were higher near Victoria. Most PBDEs were dispersed beyond the near-field at both sites, but a greater proportion was captured in the sediment near the Vancouver outfall where rapid burial was facilitated by inorganic sediment supplied from the nearby Fraser River. Clearly, treating wastewater to the same level, regardless of local oceanographic conditions, will not result in a uniform environmental footprint. Total PBDE concentrations in benthic invertebrate communities were higher near Vancouver than Victoria, despite lower concentrations in sediments, and correlated with organic carbon normalized sediment concentrations. Principal Components Analysis suggested uptake of individual PBDE congeners was determined by sediment properties (TOC, grain size), whereas PCB congener uptake was governed by physico-chemical properties (octanol-water partitioning coefficient). Our results suggest that sediment quality guidelines for PBDEs and likely PCBs may be more relevant if corrected to TOC content in sediment. In addition, where enhanced wastewater treatment increases the ratio of PBDEs to particulate organic carbon in effluent, nearfield benthic invertebrates may face increased PBDE accumulation. This underlines the need for source control of persistent organic contaminants, which cannot be broken down by conventional wastewater treatment.



sewage outfall, municipal, persistent contaminant, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, polychlorinated biphenyls, marine benthic invertebrates, sediment core