Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 186, Issue 8, pp 4841–4855 | Cite as

Assessing organic contaminant fluxes from contaminated sediments following dam removal in an urbanized river

  • Mark G. Cantwell
  • Monique M. Perron
  • Julia C. Sullivan
  • David R. Katz
  • Robert M. Burgess
  • John King


In this study, methods and approaches were developed and tested to assess changes in contaminant fluxes resulting from dam removal in a riverine system. Sediment traps and passive samplers were deployed to measure particulate and dissolved polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the water column prior to and following removal of a small, low-head dam in the Pawtuxet River, an urbanized river located in Cranston, RI, USA. During the study, concentrations of particulate and dissolved PAHs ranged from 21.5 to 103 μg/g and from 68 to 164 ng/L, respectively. Overall, temporal trends of PAHs showed no increases in either dissolved or particulate phases following removal of the dam. Dissolved concentrations of PCBs were very low, remaining below 1.72 ng/L at all sites. Particulate PCB concentrations across sites and time showed slightly greater variability, ranging from 80 to 469 ng/g, but with no indication that dam removal influenced any increases. Particulate PAHs and PCBs were sampled continuously at the site located below the dam and did not show sustained increases in concentration resulting from dam removal. The employment of passive sampling technology and sediment traps was highly effective in monitoring the concentrations and flux of contaminants moving through the river system. Variations in river flow had no effect on the concentration of contaminants in the dissolved or particulate phases, but did influence the flux rate of contaminants exiting the river. Overall, dam removal did not cause measurable sediment disturbance or increase the concentration or fluxes of dissolved or particulate PAHs and PCBs. This is due in large part to low volumes of impounded sediment residing above the dam and highly armored sediments in the river channel, which limited erosion. Results from this study will be used to improve methods and approaches that assess the short- and long-term impacts ecological restoration activities such as dam removal have on the release and transport of sediment-bound contaminants.


Dam removal Sediment resuspension Contaminant release Contaminant fluxes Sediment trap Passive samplers 



The authors thank Drs. Diane Nacci, Peg Pelletier, and Mr. Steven Rego for their technical reviews. This research was supported in part by an appointment to the Research Participation Program for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education through an interagency agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy and EPA. Dr. M.M. Perron was financially supported by post-doctoral positions with the National Institute of Health and the National Research Council funded via Brown University and U.S. EPA, respectively. Although research described in this article has been wholly funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and has been technically reviewed at the Atlantic Ecology Division, it has not been subjected to Agency-level review. Therefore, it does not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency. This manuscript is contribution number ORD-005438 of the Atlantic Ecology Division of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Health Effects Environmental Research Laboratory. Mention of trade names does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (DOCX 26 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland (outside the USA) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark G. Cantwell
    • 1
  • Monique M. Perron
    • 2
  • Julia C. Sullivan
    • 3
  • David R. Katz
    • 1
  • Robert M. Burgess
    • 1
  • John King
    • 4
  1. 1.Office of Research and DevelopmentU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyNarragansettUSA
  2. 2.Office of Pesticide ProgramU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.Oak Ridge Institute for Science and EducationNarragansettUSA
  4. 4.Graduate School of OceanographyUniversity of Rhode IslandNarragansettUSA

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