MERI scientists present study at the HDC-SETAC 2015 Annual Meeting


Parts of the towns of little Ferry, Moonachie and Carlstadt are located in a low lying basin of the Hackensack River Estuary with an historical original elevation of about 1.5 feet above sea level. During super storm Sandy, flood waters from the sea surge moved over berms and tide gates and up tidal creeks and storm drainage pipes reaching residential areas and known contaminated industrial sites. Water levels rose up to 38 inches above street level and areas remained flooded for more than seven hours. Deployed sensors registered a sharp increase in water turbidity as the flood waters receded. Contamination by heavy metals – in particular by chromium and mercury- is well known for this area. An assessment of metal concentrations (Cd, Cr, Cu, Fe, Hg, Mn, Ni, Pb, and Zn) in the sediments of seven tidal creeks on the sea side and landside of tide gates were sampled to establish a post Sandy metal concentration baseline.  The concentrations of Cr, Hg, Mn and Ni showed a negative gradient from the tide gates moving inland. Overall, samples from the sea side of tide gates had higher metal concentrations than the land side.  Peach Island Creek East showed consistent higher metal concentration than the other six creeks. Tide gates, legacy mosquito ditches, storm water drainage networks, building footprints and aerial imagery from 1930 to 2014 were used to establish the spatial relationship between historic land uses and contaminants. This study establishes the post Sandy baselines for metal contaminate for future reference on their transport and fate in these ecosystems.