Redistribution of Polychlorinated Biphenyls from a Local Point Source: Terrestrial Soil, Freshwater Sediment, and Vascular Plants as Indicators of the Halo Effect
M. Dawn Pier, Alexandra A. Betts-Piper, Christopher C. Knowlton, Barbara A. Zeeb, Kenneth J. Reimer
Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) concentrations and congener profiles in terrestrial soils, vascular plants, and freshwater lake sediments were compared with respect to their relative utilities for assessing the redistribution of PCBs from a local contaminant source into the surrounding arctic environment. Plants (n = 62), soils (n = 58), and surficial freshwater lake sediments (n = 16) were collected at varying distances up to 27 km from the source at Saglek, Labrador. Total PCB concentrations in these media exhibited similar negative log-linear relationships with increasing distance from the contaminant source. Analysis of congener compositions indicated that plants are more reflective of recent PCB exposure than either soils or sediments. Vascular plants reflect current ambient contaminant concentrations, whereas terrestrial soils and freshwater sediments represent much longer periods of contaminant deposition and are further influenced by such factors as their organic carbon content, particle size distribution, lake watershed size and productivity (in the case of sediments), and proximity to a drainage course (in the case of soils). Collectively, the data indicate that short-range transport of PCBs at Saglek has resulted in a halo of contamination that is up to 50 km in diameter.