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Sediment Assessment and Remediation Report

Evaluation of the Toxicity and Bioaccumulation of Contaminants in Sediments from Waukegan Harbor, Illinois

United States Geological Survey Final Report for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO)

Nile E. Kemble, Doug G. Hardesty, Christopher G. Ingersoll, and B. Thomas Johnson
Columbia Environmental Research Center
Biological Resources Division
United States Geological Survey
Columbia, MO, 65201, U.S.A.

F. James Dwyer
United States Fish and Wildlife Service
608 E Cherry Street - Room 200
Columbia, MO 65201


Don MacDonald
MacDonald Environmental Sciences Ltd.
2376 Yellow Point Road
Nanaimo, British Columbia, V9X 1W5, Canada

Marc Tuchman, Project Officer
Great Lakes National Program Office
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
77 W. Jackson, Chicago, IL 60604



Waukegan Harbor in Illinois was designated as a Great Lakes Area of Concern due to high sediment concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The objective of this study was to evaluate sediment toxicity of 20 samples collected after remediation (primarily dredging) of Waukegan Harbor for PCBs. A 42-d whole-sediment toxicity test with the amphipod Hyalella azteca (28-d sediment exposure followed by a 14-d water-only exposure), a 28-d whole-sediment bioaccummulation test with the oligochaete Lumbriculus variegatus, and sediment-toxicity tests with Microtox® were conducted to evaluate sediments from Waukegan Harbor. Endpoints measured were survival, growth, and reproduction (amphipods), bioaccummulation (oligochaetes), and luminescent light emission (bacteria). Survival of amphipods was significantly reduced in 6 of the sediment samples relative to the control. Growth of amphipods (either length or weight) was significantly reduced relative to the control in all samples at Days 28 and 42. However, reproduction of amphipods identified only 2 samples as toxic relative to the control. Detection limits in the analysis of tissue samples from the bioaccumulation exposure of oligochaetes were too high to evaluate differences among sites. The Microtox® basic test identified the organic extracts of sediment from only one site as toxic, whereas, the Microtox® solid-phase test identified about 50% of the sites as toxic. A significant negative correlation was observed between reproduction of amphipods and the concentration of three PAHs normalized to total organic carbon. Sediment chemistry and toxicity data were evaluated using sediment quality guidelines (consensus-based Probable Effect Concentrations (PECs)). Results of these analyses indicate that sediment samples from Waukegan Harbor were toxic to H. azteca contaminated at similar contaminant concentrations as sediment samples that were toxic to H. azteca from other areas of the United States. The relationship between PECs and the observed toxicity was not as strong for the Microtox® test. The results of this study indicate that the first phase of sediment remediation in Waukegan Harbor successfully lowered concentrations of PCBs at the site. While the sediments were generally not lethal to amphipods, there are still sublethal effects of contaminants in the sediment at this site (associated with elevated concentrations of metals, PCBs and PAHs).


We thank the following individuals for their assistance on the project Tina Bridges, Bill Brumbaugh, Eric Brunson, Tim Canfield, Eugene Greer, Pam Haverland, Ed Henry, James Kunz, Phil Lovely, Jill Soener, Julie Soltvedt, Ning Wang, David Whites, and Dave Zumwalt. We wish to thank the personnel of Illinois-EPA for the collection of the sediment samples. We thank Celeste Cowley, Andrea Rhodes, Chris Dinardo, Matt Neely, Diane Wilson of Illinois-EPA for analysis of oligochaete tissue and sediment analysis for total metals and organochorine compounds. We also thank the personnel at Mississippi State University for analysis of polyaromatic hydrocarbon compounds in the sediment samples. We would like to thank Tim Canfield and Jim Keating for their helpful comments on the manuscript. This work was supported, in part, through an interagency agreement DW14947756-01-0 between the United States Geological Survey and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


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