Interpretation of anthropogenic enrichment of metal concentrations in sediments from a Savannah Harbor boat slip
Graham, Patrick N.
Semmes, Robert H.
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Metal contamination of estuarine sediments, especially in industrialized and highly developed areas such as the Savannah Harbor, have been a persistent and increasing problem in Georgia and elsewhere. Previous studies (Chen, 1993 and Alexander et al., 1997) of radiotracer-dated sediment cores from a relic Savannah Harbor boat slip (Slip 1) showed increasing metal concentrations in the 1940s and 1950s, followed by a decrease in the late 1960s. These trends have been attributed to the increased development of Savannah’s port facilities in the 1950s and 1960s, with the beneficial effect of pollution controls explaining the decreasing trend. As part of recent studies of Slip 1 sediments conducted by ATM, metal concentrations in sediment cores from 1998 and 2004 have been normalized to a reference element (e.g., aluminum) and compared to benchmarks of anthropogenic enrichment. This comparison showed that sediments deposited in Slip 1 since the 1940s had the greatest anthropogenic enrichment. Recent samples reflecting sediments deposited since 1998 showed overall lower levels of anthropogenic enrichment and may indicate that the pollution controls of recent decades are working. However, these samples also showed that lead is ubiquitous in Slip 1 sediments and that there must be continuing sources of arsenic, chromium, manganese, and zinc in the Savannah Harbor.