Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

High levels of toxic PCBs in Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal in Indiana, US

Date:
September 9, 2011
Source:
University of Iowa Health Care
Summary:
Researchers have found high levels of toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the deep sediments lining the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal (IHSC) in East Chicago, Ind. Scientists say the discovery is cause for concern because the IHSC is scheduled to be dredged in spring 2012 to maintain proper depth for ship traffic in this heavily industrialized area of southern Lake Michigan.

University of Iowa researchers have found high levels of toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the deep sediments lining the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal (IHSC) in East Chicago, Ind. Scientists say the discovery is cause for concern because the IHSC is scheduled to be dredged in spring 2012 to maintain proper depth for ship traffic in this heavily industrialized area of southern Lake Michigan.

The study, published online in the journal Chemosphere on Sept. 6, builds upon a previous UI study that found the release of PCBs from the sediment floor to the water above, and then, to the air. This time, scientists drilled down into the floor of the canal and discovered that the concentration of PCBs buried within the sediment is even higher.

"We found that the deeper you go, the more toxic it is," said Andres Martinez, a UI postdoctoral scholar in civil and environmental engineering and lead author of the study. "Dredging the IHSC has the potential to expose these more toxic sediments."

PCBs can enter the human body by eating or drinking contaminated food, through the air we breathe, or by skin contact. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), these compounds have been shown to cause cancer, along with a variety of other adverse health effects on the body's immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems.

"This finding is significant because it demonstrates that the concentration of toxic chemicals below the surface of the canal floor is quite high," said Keri Hornbuckle, professor of civil and environmental engineering in the UI College of Engineering and coauthor of the study. "We need to get this information out, because the level of pollutants underneath the sediment has never been reported."

PCBs were widely used as coolants in electrical transformers and in a wide variety of products, ranging from waterproofing compounds to paints and pesticides. They were manufactured from 1929 until they were banned in 1979 due to their toxicity and lingering effects on the environment.

To calculate accurate estimates of the amount and relative distribution of PCBs in the deep sediment of the IHSC, UI researchers employed a submersible vibro-coring system and collected two core samples.

In a statistical analysis, Martinez determined that sediments in Core 1 -- collected far from Lake Michigan and the main canal, where there is less vessel traffic -- had PCB concentrations higher than 50 parts per million (ppm), which qualifies as hazardous waste according to EPA standards. At those levels, the IHSC could be designated a Superfund Site. Superfund is a federal effort to clean up abandoned hazardous waste sites.

The IHSC is an active canal system that supports large vessels. But to remain viable for industrial shipping, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District, plans to begin a long-term dredging project to restore adequate navigational depth.

Hornbuckle and Martinez recommend that the PCB concentrations in the sediment be considered in the dredging strategy to reduce the potential release of PCBs into the environment.

"They need to dredge it, but I think they need to dredge it all," Hornbuckle said. "If you were going to dredge it all, you would figure out where all the pollutants are and then you would remove them and move them somewhere safe. They don't intend to dredge it all, because that would be much more expensive and disruptive to this very active harbor.

"It's not the act of dredging that is the problem. The problem is when you leave contaminated chemicals at the surface that continue to be released forever."

Researchers acknowledge that the Army Corps of Engineers may not dredge deep enough to expose the highly toxic PCBs. Now that they've identified the presence of toxic PCBs in the deep sediment, the next step is to try to predict what will happen if the new sediment is exposed. Citing limitations of the study, the scientists also note that the two cores of sediment may not be representative of the entire IHSC.

The Iowa Superfund Basic Research Program and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences provided funding for the study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Iowa Health Care. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Andres Martinez, Keri C. Hornbuckle. Record of PCB congeners, sorbents and potential toxicity in core samples in Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal. Chemosphere, 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2011.08.018

Cite This Page:

University of Iowa Health Care. "High levels of toxic PCBs in Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal in Indiana, US." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110909141641.htm>.
University of Iowa Health Care. (2011, September 9). High levels of toxic PCBs in Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal in Indiana, US. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110909141641.htm
University of Iowa Health Care. "High levels of toxic PCBs in Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal in Indiana, US." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110909141641.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

3BL Media (Oct. 20, 2014) Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-fuel Impala Video provided by 3BL
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Rhino's Death In Kenya Means Just 6 Are Left

White Rhino's Death In Kenya Means Just 6 Are Left

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) Suni, a rare northern white rhino at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, died Friday. This, as many media have pointed out, leaves people fearing extinction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Beijing Marathon Runners Brave Hazardous Air Pollution

Beijing Marathon Runners Brave Hazardous Air Pollution

AFP (Oct. 19, 2014) Tens of thousands of runners battled thick smog at the Beijing Marathon on Sunday, with some donning masks as the levels of PM2.5 small pollutant particles soared to 16 times the maximum recommended level. Duration: 00:54 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins