Fate and Transport of Contaminants in Sediments

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Conceptual model of contaminated sediment re-distribution with propeller wash and ship wake ( ER-201031)

Numerous processes (e.g., diffusion, advection, bioturbation, and degradation) affect the fate and transport of contaminants in aquatic environments. In aquatic environments, many toxic chemicals, including PCBs, PAHs, metals and munitions constituents bind to fine- grained particles and concentrate in bottom sediments. Transport and fate of such contaminants in aquatic ecosystems is largely controlled by processes that take place in or near the sediment bed. SERDP and ESTCP-sponsored projects identified important physical, chemical, microbiological, and biological processes that affect the fate, bioavailability, and effects of contaminants within the sediment column.  Recently completed work under ER-201031 demonstrated the importance of ship-wake and propeller-wash in the resuspension and re-distribution of contaminants in active harbor and ports.

More recent concerns are on the fate and transport in sediments for emergent contaminants including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), munitions constituents, and 1,4- dioxane. Currently, SERDP and ESTCP are investing heavily into the identification, fates, transport, and risks associated with PFASs in groundwater, surface water, soils and sediments. Several projects have been initiated to better understand the occurrence, fate and transport of PFASs; a description of the Statements of Need and related projects can be found in the overall program description