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									            Cooperative Institute for
            Coastal and Estuarine
            Environmental Technology                                                              Project Brief

What Lies Beneath
Technology promises to accurately and quickly assess
the threat of toxic organic chemicals in sediment

Harbor and river sediment polluted by toxic organic chemicals
such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) is a persistent problem
that threatens human health and coastal ecosystems around
the country. A portion of these organic pollutants are dissolved
in the water permeating sediment and are “bioavailable”—and
therefore a threat—to marine life and people that consume
seafood. The remaining pollutants bind tightly to sediment
particles, which prevents them from entering the food chain.
Traditional methods of monitoring sediment pollution are slow,

                                                                                                                                           Tools to Detect Pollution & Monitor Water Quality
costly, and unable to assess the percentage of organic pollutants
that are actually bioavailable. Coastal managers need a sound,
reproducible method to determine the potential bioavailability
of organic pollutants in sediment so they can pinpoint those
sites in greatest need of remediation and restoration.

Response                                                              Toxic organic chemical pollution in river and harbor sediment is
                                                                      a pervasive problem, but the threat it holds for marine animals
With support from CICEET,                                             and seafood consumers can vary. These CICEET investigators are
researchers at the Southern                                           developing an innovative sampling technology that can identify
California Coastal Water                                              sites where organic pollutants are more bioavailable and there-
Research Project (SCCWRP)                                             fore pose a greater risk for marine life.
are developing a cost-
effective, fiber-based
sampler that monitors the                                           Impact
bioavailability of organic
                                                                    CICEET researchers have partnered with the California State
pollutants in situ, or in     Researchers are using commercially-   Water Resources Control Board, which is developing sediment
the sediment. Unlike bulk     available components to build an      standards and a sediment quality control plan for California’s
sediment chemistry, the       innovative sampler to assess the      bays and estuaries. The Board hopes to use the SPME-based
most widely used tool         threat of toxic organic chemicals     sampler technology to replace complicated and costly sediment
to assess sediment, this      in sediment.                          chemistry in its efforts to assess sediment quality.
sensor uses solid phase
microextraction (SPME) technology to quantify the bioavail-          In the next series of tests, researchers will compare measure-
able fraction of organic pollutants in sediment, also known as      ments of the bioavailability of organic pollutants with measures
“porewater concentration.” This enables the user to pinpoint        of bioaccumulation in animals living in the same location where
sites with chemicals that could be harmful to aquatic life.         the testing is taking place. If successful, the technology has
                                                                    the potential to be applied in any water body where toxic
Researchers have begun to demonstrate the SPME sampler’s
                                                                    organic chemical pollution in sediment is a problem.
effectiveness in bench-scale tests. These have shown that
porewater concentrations of organic pollutants taken with the       Learn more
sampler were consistent with those measured by more costly,
conventional approaches to porewater sampling. Use of the           Keith A. Maruya
sampler did not impact aquatic life or the ecosystem where the      Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP)
sampling has taken place.                                           T: 714-755-3214
Tools for Clean Water & Healthy Coasts

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