Spatiotemporal assessment (quarter century) of pulp mill metal(loid) contaminated sediment to inform remediation decisions
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A bleached kraft pulp mill in Nova Scotia has discharged effluent wastewater into Boat Harbour, a former tidal estuary within Pictou Landing First Nation since 1967. Fifty years of effluent discharge into Boat Harbour has created >170,000 m3 of unconsolidated sediment, impacted by inorganic and organic contaminants, including metal[loid]s, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), dioxins, and furans. This study aimed to characterize metal(loid)-impacted sediments to inform decisions for a $89 million CAD sediment remediation program. The remediation goals are to return this impacted aquatic site to pre-mill tidal conditions. To understand historical sediment characteristics, spatiotemporal variation covering ~quarter century, of metal(loid) sediment concentrations across 103 Boat Harbour samples from 81 stations and four reference locations, were assessed by reviewing secondary data from 1992 to 2015. Metal(loid) sediment concentrations were compared to current Canadian freshwater and marine sediment quality guidelines (SQGs). Seven metal(loid)s, As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Pb, Hg, and Zn, exceeded low effect freshwater and marine SQGs; six, As, Cd, Cr, Pb, Hg, and Zn, exceeded severe effect freshwater SQGs; and four, Cd, Cu, Hg, and Zn, exceeded severe effect marine SQGs. Metal(loid) concentrations varied widely across three distinct temporal periods. Significantly higherCd, Cu, Pb, Hg, and Zn concentrations were measured between 1998 and 2000, compared to earlier, 1992–1996 and more recent 2003–2015 data. Most samples, 69%, were shallow (0–15 cm), leaving deeper horizons under-characterized. Geographic information system (GIS) techniques also revealed inadequate spatial coverage, presenting challenges for remedy decisions regarding vertical and horizontal delineation of contaminants. Review of historical monitoring data revealed that gaps still exist in our understanding of sediment characteristics in Boat Harbour, including spatial, vertical and horizontal, and temporal variation of sediment contamination. To help return Boat Harbour to a tidal estuary, more detailed sampling is required to better characterize these sediments and to establish appropriate reference (background) concentrations to help develop costeffective remediation approaches for this decades-old problem.
Hoffman, E., Lyons, J., Boxall, J., Robertson, C. , Lake, C.B., and Walker, T.R. 2017. Spatio-temporal assessment (quarter century) of pulp mill metal(loid) contaminated sediment to inform remediation decisions, Journal of Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 189: 257. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-017-5952-0.