RADIOGENIC LEAD ISOTOPES AND TIME STRATIGRAPHY IN THE HUDSON RIVER, NEW YORK

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Abstract

Radionuclide, radiogenic lead isotope and trace metal analyses on fine-grained sediment cores collected along 160 km of the upper and tidal Hudson River were used to examine temporal trends of contaminant loadings and to develop radiogenic lead isotopes both as a stratigraphic tool and as tracers for resolving decadal particle transport fluxes. Very large inputs of Cd, Sb, Pb, and Cr are evident in the sediment record, potentially from a single manufacturing facility. The total range in radiogenic lead isotope ratios observed in well-dated cores collected about 24 km downstream of the plant is large (e.g., maximum difference in 206Pb/207Pb is 10%), characterized by four major shifts occurring in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. The upper Hudson signals in Cd and radiogenic lead isotopes were still evident in sediments collected 160 km downstream in the tidal Hudson. The large magnitude and abrupt shifts in radiogenic lead isotope ratios as a function of depth provide sensitive temporal constraints that complement information derived from radionuclide analyses to significantly improve the precision of dating assignments. Application of a simple dilution model to data from paired cores suggests much larger sediment inputs in one section of the river than previously reported, suggesting particle influxes to the Hudson have been underestimated.

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