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From headwaters to estuary: distribution, sources, and ecological risk of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in an intensively human-impacted river, China

Li, Yanan, Zhen, Xiaomei, Liu, Lin, Tian, Chongguo, Pan, Xiaohui, Tang, Jianhui
Environmental science and pollution research international 2018 v.25 no.36 pp. 36604-36614
United States Environmental Protection Agency, combustion, ecosystems, environmental assessment, estuaries, guidelines, hydrodynamics, industrial wastewater, irrigation, pollution, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, risk, risk assessment, rivers, sediments, sewage, toxicity, turbidity, watersheds, China
Located in the Shandong Province, North China, the Xiaoqing River is heavily contaminated by industrial wastewater and domestic sewage. However, it plays a significant role with regard to irrigation for agriculture in the river basin. In this study, spatial distribution, sources, and the ecological risk of aqueous polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the Xiaoqing River Basin were investigated from the headwaters to the estuary. Fifteen USEPA priority PAHs (except naphthalene) were quantified in water particulate and soluble phases and in sediment samples. Σ₁₅PAHs concentrations in the sediment varied from 17.15 to 3808.01 ng/g dry weight (dw), with an average of 988.72 ng/g dw, suggesting severe pollution of the Xiaoqing River in comparison with other rivers worldwide. The composition of PAHs was characterized by the high abundance of 4-ring and 5-ring PAHs in sediments and 2-ring and 3-ring PAHs in water. Industrial wastewater is a significant source of PAHs. In the river section, point source was the main factor affecting the distribution of PAHs, while in the estuary region, estuarine turbidity maximum zone (ETM), riverine flow and discharge, and its hydrodynamic parameters play more key roles on PAH levels. Molecular diagnostic ratios have proved that PAHs in sediments were derived from mixed sources, primarily a combination of several combustion processes. Toxicity equivalency concentrations (TEQs) and Ecological risk assessment by Sediment Quality Guidelines indicated that PAHs in sediments might have certain unfavorable effects on ecosystems in certain sites.