PCBs in sediments and the coastal food web near a local contaminant source in Saglek Bay, Labrador.Sci Total Environ. 2005 Dec 01; 351-352:264-84.ST
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were measured in marine sediments and the coastal food web in Saglek Bay, Labrador, to investigate the influence of a local PCB source. Saglek Bay has been the site of a military radar station since the late 1950s and there was PCB-contaminated soil at a beach prior to cleanup in 1997-1999. PCB concentrations in marine sediments during 1997-1999 ranged from 0.24 to 62000 ng/g (dry weight) and decreased exponentially with distance from the contaminated beach. Given this gradient, spatial trends of PCBs in the food web were examined over four zones, according to distance from the contaminated beach: within 1.5 km--zone one, 1.5-4.5 km--zone two, 4.5-7.5 km--zone three, and greater than 7.5 km--zone four. PCB concentrations in a bottom-feeding fish (shorthorn sculpin, Myoxocephalus scorpius), decreased significantly from zone one to zone two, three, four, and distant Labrador reference sites. PCB concentrations in the eggs of a diving seabird (black guillemot, Cepphus grylle) were as high as 48000 ng/g during 1997-1999 and average concentrations in zones one and two were 84 and 13 times higher than in zone four. Marine invertebrates closely reflected the concentrations of PCBs in the associated sediment. In contrast to the benthic-based food web, anadromous arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) showed no evidence of PCB accumulation from the contaminated sediments. Relatively high PCB concentrations were discovered in some great black-backed gulls (Larus marinus) and ringed seals (Phoca hispida) but appear to relate more to their high trophic level than sampling location. Those species that fed on or near the seabed and had limited foraging ranges were strongly influenced by the local contamination. Total PCB concentrations in the benthic-based food web were significantly higher than background levels for a distance of at least 7.5 km from the contaminated beach. This area is small in the context of widely distributed contamination from long-range transport but the area's high concentrations are comparable to levels associated with adverse effects elsewhere. Our findings should be useful to better assess the environmental impacts of PCB contamination at other coastal sites in the Arctic.