Geomorphology-based interpretation of sedimentation rates from radiodating, lower Passaic River, New Jersey, USA.

Integrated environmental assessment and management

PubMedID: 17477286

Erickson MJ, Barnes CR, Henderson MR, Romagnoli R, Firstenberg CE. Geomorphology-based interpretation of sedimentation rates from radiodating, lower Passaic River, New Jersey, USA. Integr Environ Assess Manag. 2007;3(2):166-92.
Analysis of site geomorphology and sedimentation rates as an indicator of long-term bed stability is central to the evaluation of remedial alternatives for depositional aquatic environments. In conjunction with various investigations of contaminant distribution, sediment dynamics, and bed stability in the Passaic River Estuary, 121 sediment cores were collected in the early 1990s from the lower 9.7 km of the Passaic River and analyzed for lead-210 (210Pb), cesium-137 (137Cs), and other analytes. This paper opportunistically uses the extensive radiochemical dataset to examine the spatial patterns of long-term sedimentation rates in, and associated geomorphic aspects of, this area of the river. For the purposes of computing sedimentation rates, the utility of the 210Pb and 137Cs depositional profiles was assessed to inform appropriate interpretation. Sedimentation rates were computed for 90 datable cores by 3 different methods, depending on profile utility. A sedimentation rate of 0 was assigned to 17 additional cores that were not datable and for which evidence of no deposition exists. Sedimentation patterns were assessed by grouping results within similar geomorphic areas, delineated through inspection of bathymetric data. On the basis of channel morphology, results reflect expected patterns, with the highest sedimentation rates observed along point bars and channel margins. The lowest rates of sedimentation (and the largest percentage of undatable cores) were observed in the areas along the outer banks of channel bends. Increasing sedimentation rates from upstream to downstream were noted. Average and median sedimentation rates were estimated to be 3.8 and 3.7 cm/y, respectively, reflecting the highly depositional nature of the Passaic River estuary. This finding is consistent with published descriptions of long-term geomorphology for Atlantic Coastal Plain estuaries.