The environmental impact and recovery at two dumping sites for dredged material in the North Sea

J. Stronkhorst, F. Ariese, B. van Hattum, J.F. Postma, M. de Kluijver, P. den Besten, M.J.N. Bergman, R. Daan, A.J. Murk, A.D. Vethaak

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75 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The environmental impact and recovery associated with the long and uninterrupted disposal of large volumes of moderately contaminated dredged material from the port of Rotterdam was studied at nearby dumping sites in the North Sea. Observations were made on sediment contamination, ecotoxicity, biomarker responses and benthic community changes shortly after dumping at the 'North' site had ceased and at the start of disposal at the new dumping site 'Northwest'. During the period of dumping, very few benthic invertebrates were found at the North site. Concentrations of cadmium, mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and tributyltin (TBT) in the fine sediment fraction (<63 mum) from this site were 2-3 times higher than at the reference site. In four different bioassays with marine invertebrates the sediments showed no acute toxic effects. In tissue (pyloric caeca) of resident starfish Asterias rubens, residual levels of mercury, zinc, PCBs and dioxin-like activity were never more than twice those at the reference site. Four different biomarkers (DNA integrity, cytochrome P450 content, benzo[a]pyrene hydroxylase activity and acetylcholinesterase inhibition) were used on the starfish tissues, but no significant differences were found between North and the reference site. Minor pathological effects were observed in resident dab Limanda limanda. One year after dumping had ceased at the North site, a significant increase in the species richness and abundance of benthic invertebrates and a concomitant decrease in the fine sediment fraction of the seabed were observed. After 8.2 million m(3) of moderately contaminated dredged material had been dumped at the new dumping site Northwest, the species richness and abundance of benthic invertebrates declined over an area extending about 1-2 km eastwards. This correlated with a shift in sediment texture from sand to silt. The contamination of the fine sediment fraction at the Northwest location doubled. It is concluded that marine benthic resources at and around the dumping sites have been adversely affected by physical disturbance (burial, smothering). However, no causal link could be established with sediment-associated contaminants from the dredged spoils. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-31
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Volume124
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Keywords

  • fresh-water isopods
  • dutch coastal zone
  • in-vitro bioassay
  • asterias-rubens l
  • polychlorinated-biphenyls
  • monooxygenase system
  • sediments
  • metals
  • toxicity
  • disposal

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