An assessment of butyltins and metals in sediment cores from the St. Thomas East End Reserves, USVI

  • S. Ian Hartwell
  • Dennis A. Apeti
  • Andrew L. Mason
  • Anthony S. Pait


Tributyltin (TBT) concentrations near a marina complex in Benner Bay on St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, were elevated relative to other areas in a larger study of the southeastern shore of the island. At the request of the USVI Coastal Zone Management Program, sediment cores and surface sediment samples were collected to better define the extent and history of TBT deposition in the vicinity of Benner Bay. The sediment cores were sectioned into 2-cm intervals and dated with 210Pb and 137Cs. The core sections and the surface samples were analyzed for butyltins and 16 elements. Deposition rates varied from 0.07–5.0 mm/year, and were highest in the marina complex. Core ages ranged from 54 to 200 years. The bottoms of the cores contained shell hash, but the top layers all consisted of much finer material. Surface concentrations of TBT exceeded 2000 ng Sn/g (dry weight) at two locations. At a depth of 8 cm TBT exceeded 8800 ng Sn/g in the marina complex sediment. Based on the ratio of tributyltin to total butyltins, it appears that the marina sediments are the source of contamination of the surrounding area. There is evidence that vessels from neighboring islands may also be a source of fresh TBT. Copper concentrations increase over time up to the present. Gradients of virtually all metals and metalloids extended away from the marina complex. NOAA sediment quality guidelines were exceeded for As, Pb, Cu, Zn, and Hg.


Tributyltin Metals Sediment cores Contamination US Virgin Islands 



The authors wish to acknowledge the support from NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program for this project. We would also like to thank Jean-Pierre Oriol, Director of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) Division of Coastal Zone Management, Roy Pemberton, Director, and Stephen Hale of DPNR Division of Fish and Wildlife, and Tyler Smith of the University of the Virgin Islands. Larry Aubain of DPNR Division of Fish and Wildlife provided essential field support. We would also like to thank Sybille Sorrentino of Virgin Island Ecotours for providing a base of operations for our field work.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland (outside the USA) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Ian Hartwell
    • 1
  • Dennis A. Apeti
    • 1
  • Andrew L. Mason
    • 1
  • Anthony S. Pait
    • 1
  1. 1.NOAA/National Status and Trends ProgramSilver SpringUSA

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