Historical contamination of Yukon Lake sediments by PCBs and organochlorine pesticides: influence of local sources and watershed characteristics

D F Rawn, W L Lockhart, P Wilkinson, D A Savoie, G B Rosenberg, D C Muir
Science of the Total Environment 2001 December 3, 280 (1): 17-37
PCBs and other persistent organochlorine (OC) pesticides were analyzed in sediment cores collected from six lakes in Yukon Territory and one in northern British Columbia, Canada, with the objective of establishing sources and historical trends of these contaminants. DDT was found to be the most prominent OC in the sediment profiles of most of the lakes. Maximum sigmaDDT levels (3.47-2680 ng g(-1) dw) were observed in sediment slices dated to the 1950s from lakes near populated areas. In contrast, in more remote lakes (Hanson, Kusawa and Lindeman), the maximum sigmaDDT concentrations were observed in the sediments dated to the 1970s. Highest sigmaPCB and sigmaDDT concentrations were measured in sediments from Watson Lake, near a suspected PCB waste disposal site and in a region where DDT was heavily applied in the 1950s and 1960s. Elevated sigmaPCB concentrations [16.1-93.6 ng g(-1) dry weight (dw)] were also observed in sediments from lakes situated near populated areas, relative to Kusawa and Lindeman (11.1 and 12.7 ng g(-1) dw, respectively). Recent sigmaPCB fluxes ranged from 621 ng m(-2) y(-1) in Kusawa Lake to 16400 ng m(-2) y(-1) in Little Atlin Lake. The extremely high sedimentation rate (2050 g m(-2) y(-1)) in glacial fed Lindeman Lake gave rise to elevated fluxes of sigmaPCB (2410 ng m(-2) y(-1)) and other OCs, despite much lower concentrations in the sediment. Levels of hexachlorocyclohexanes (sigmaHCH), chlordane-related compounds (sigmaCHL), and chlorobenzenes (sigmaCBz) were in the low ng g(-1) (dw) range in all lake sediments, similar to concentrations previously reported for Arctic lakes in Canada, indicating that their major source was long range atmospheric transport. Contamination of the lakes with PCBs and DDT near populated areas of the Yukon Territory appears to be a result of regional activities rather than long range transport and deposition. The results also point to glacial runoff as a significant source of OCs to small, high elevation lakes (Lindeman), but not to larger lakes within the Yukon River drainage basin that are also affected by glacial sources (Kusawa, Laberge).

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