Multi-disciplinary research
Publication:

Paleolimnological assessment of Grove and Plow Shop Ponds, Ayer, Massachusetts, USA--a superfund site (2004)

Author(s): Norton SA, Perry ER, Haines TA, Dieffenbacher-Krall AC

    Abstract: Three sediment cores from each of severely polluted Grove and Plow Shop Ponds, Ayer, Massachusetts, USA, were dated using (210)Pb, characterized for plant macrofossil assemblages, and analyzed for H(2)O, loss-on-ignition, stable Pb isotopes, and concentrations of As, Ca, Cd, Cr, Cu, Fe, Hg, methyl-Hg, Ni, Pb, and Zn. A core from nearby kettle Spectacle Pond, Littleton, Massachusetts, was similarly characterized (except for plant macrofossil assemblages) to assess the regional air pollution signal in sediment for comparison with the six cores. Accumulation rates for metals (mass per area per year), the anthropogenic component (mass per area per year), and total accumulation of the anthropogenic component (mass per area) indicate that As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Hg, methyl-Hg, Ni, Pb, and Zn have accumulated in sediment as a consequence of point source pollution from within the drainage basins of Grove and Plow Shop Ponds. Three distinct sources of pollution are inferred. As is entering Plow Shop Pond via groundwater in the southwest. Cd, Ni, Pb, and Zn are entering the system predominantly at the eastern end of, or upstream from, Grove Pond. Pb also comes from the northwest corner of Grove Pond, the principal source of Cr, Cu, and Hg. These results are consistent with chemistry of modern surface sediments. The history of pollution extends back more than 100 years. Intra- and inter-core variability of concentrations and accumulation rates indicate that much of the pollution was likely in particulate form with little physical redistribution. Recently, concentrations and accumulation rates have generally decreased substantially for those elements present in excessive concentrations in the past. This is a consequence of accumulation of recent, less polluted sediment. In Spectacle Pond, the nearby reference lake, accumulation rates for As, Cd, Hg, and Pb, adjusted for background values and changes in sedimentation rate, increased above background starting in the late 19th century, peaked about 1980, and declined substantially to 2000. These decreases suggest that the anthropogenic (pollution) component of atmospheric deposition of these elements declined after 1980 by at least 50%(As), 80%(Cd), 80%(Hg), and 80%(Pb).

      • Date: 01-05-2004
      • Journal: Journal of Environmental Monitoring
      • Volume: 6
      • Issue: 5
      • Pages: 457-465
      • Publisher: Royal Society of Chemistry
      • Publication type: Article
      • Bibliographic status: Published

      Keywords: Air Pollutants, Environmental/*analysis/history Arsenic/analysis Cadmium/analysis Comparative Study *Fossils Geologic Sediments/analysis/*chemistry History, 20th Century History, 21st Century Lead/analysis Lead Radioisotopes/analysis Massachusetts Mercury/analysis Metals, Heavy/*analysis Plants/chemistry Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S. Sewage/chemistry Water Pollutants, Chemical/*analysis/history Water Supply/analysis

      Staff

      Professor Elaine Perry
      Professor of Neurochemical Pathology