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Assessment and Remediation of Contaminated Sediments (ARCS) Program

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Final Report - March, 1994

prepared for
United States Environmental Protection Agency
Great Lakes National Program Office
Marc L. Tuchman, Project Officer
77 West Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60604

prepared by
Joseph F. Atkinson, Tricia Bajak, Michael Morgante,
Stephen Marshall and Joseph V. DePinto

Great Lakes Program
Department of Civil Engineering
207 Jarvis Hall
State University of New York at Buffalo
Buffalo, New York 14260


Model Data Requirements and Mass Loading Estimates for the Buffalo River Mass Balance Study

US Environmental Protection Agency. 1994. Summary, Introduction and Table of Contents to "Model Data Requirements and Mass Loading Estimates for the Buffalo River Mass Balance Study," EPA 905-R94-005. Chicago, Ill.: Great Lakes National Program Office.


The Buffalo River (Buffalo, New York) is one of 43 Areas of Concern identified by the International Joint Commission in the Great Lakes basin. It was chosen for study under EPA's Assessment and Remediation of Contaminated Sediments (ARCS) program, Risk Assessment and Modeling (RAM) subgroup, and data were collected to estimate the loading sources and annual loading amounts for 11 different contaminants. Although present loadings are significantly reduced from historic levels, the sediments contain high concentrations of some materials and there is a concern for potential releases resulting from resuspension events. The contaminants of interest include total PCBs, chlordane, dieldrin, DDT, benzo(a)anthracene, benzo(b)fluoranthene, benzo(k)fluoranthene, benzo(a)pyrene, chrysene, lead and copper. Total suspended solids loading is also calculated. Possible sources of contamination considered include upstream flows, industrial discharges, groundwater leaching, combined sewer overflows and resuspension of inplace contaminated sediments.

The river is known to act as a relatively efficient sediment trap, so that any contaminants adsorbed to particles transported into the river from upstream are likely to remain there. In fact, the major source for all the contaminants of interest was found to be the upstream tributary flows. Of course, loading to the water column from sediment resuspension is still unknown - estimates of the potential strength of that source will be evaluated after development of sediment transport and water quality models for the river. Estimates of export quantities from the system are also included, though these calculations have much greater uncertainty than the upstream values, due to the smaller data set available.

In addition to annual loading estimates, this report includes a calculation of several parameters needed to develop and apply general water quality and contaminant transport models to the river. These include primarily distribution (partition) coefficients for each of the contaminants of interest, as well as data for a number of conventional parameters. Annual and monthly average flows are presented and data are provided for specifying upstream and downstream boundary conditions. The report is meant to provide a compilation of data useful for further modeling work on the Buffalo River conducted within the ARCS/RAM program, or for any other modeling application contemplated in the future.

Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Tables

1. Introduction
1.1. Project overview
1.2. Parameters of interest, data sources

2. Conclusions
2.1. Comment on data completeness, uncertainty in loading estimates

3. Model data requirements
3.1. Flows
3.2. Water quality
3.2.1. Downstream boundary conditions
3.3. Partition coefficients
3.4. Spatial variability of sediment characteristics

4. Loading estimates
4.1. Upstream loading estimates
4.1.1. Suspended solids
4.1.2. Contaminants
4.2. Point sources
4.2.1. Industrial discharges
4.2.2. Combined sewer overflows (CSOs)
4.3. Sediment resuspension potential and contamination risk
4.4. Non-point sources (inactive hazardous waste sites)
4.5. Export from system
4.6. Summary
4.6.1. "Typical" year

5. References
6. Appendices

Appendix A. Buffalo River flowrates
Appendix B. Water quality data
Appendix C. Partition coefficients
Appendix D. Sediment concentrations

1. Introduction

1.1. Project Overview

The Buffalo River is fed from three main tributaries, Buffalo Creek, Cazenovia Creek and Cayuga Creek (Figure 1). From the confluence of Buffalo and Cazenovia Creeks the river meanders about 5.5 miles towards the west before discharging into Lake Erie, near the head of the Niagara River. The Buffalo River has played an important role in the industrial development of the city of Buffalo. These industries included grain mills, chemical and oil refineries and coke and steel mills, many of which are no longer operating. Unfortunately, the water and sediment quality of the river has suffered as a result of years of contaminant loading. In addition to industrial discharges, combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and leaching from inactive hazardous waste sites remain as potential sources for river contamination. Thirty-eight CSOs discharge to the river or lower Cazenovia Creek during storm conditions and these represent potential sources of organic and inorganic toxic contamination as well as BOD. There are currently 19 listed inactive hazardous waste disposal sites located within or adjacent to the river (NYSDEC, 1989). Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), metals and cyanides have been detected in 12 of these sites and the potential for off-site migration has been confirmed or indicated at 4 of these sites.

In recent years there has been a desire to develop the river and its banks for greater public access and other uses. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), for example, has recently upgraded the river's class "D" designation to class "C", meaning that the river waters are now believed to be suitable for fish propagation. Although present point source loadings have been reduced significantly from historic levels, possible contamination of the water column from resuspended bottom sediments represents a serious potential obstacle for further development and use of the river. This problem is exacerbated by a regular program of navigational dredging carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE). This prevents a natural armoring effect from taking place and may also help to stir up contaminants on a periodic basis.

Because of the concern for in-place contaminants, the lower Buffalo River was listed by the International Joint Commission as one of 43 Areas of Concern (AOC) around the Great Lakes basin and it was chosen as a study site for EPA's ARCS program (GLNPO, 1991). This study has involved an intense data collection and water quality analysis effort. Sediment cores and water samples were taken for analyses for a number of constituents of interest (see section 1 .2.).

The raw data collected during these surveys, as well as results of chemical analyses of the samples, have been collected and catalogued by EPA. The purpose of the present report is to summarize these data and, along with other information (described below), develop estimates for mass loading rates of various constituents of interest. These estimates may be used to evaluate the relative strength of various sources for pollutants of interest in the river, as indicated schematically in Figure 2. Upstream loadings are calculated on the basis of average daily flows and total suspended solids (TSS) concentrations, along with measured contaminant concentrations. Groundwater and combined sewer overflow (CSO) loadings are estimated on the basis of separate model calculations and industrial loadings are taken from the Buffalo River Remedial Action Plan prepared by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC, 1989). Primarily, results are presented for use in water quality mass balance models which may be used to simulate the time history of toxics concentrations in the water column, sediments and biota of the river as a function of source inputs. This will be useful in evaluating system response to various remedial and/or regulatory actions that might be applied. Ultimately, it is desired to develop and apply an "integrated exposure-risk model" to estimate the risk to humans and wildlife via exposure to these concentrations. This model will include the following submodels:

  1. loading submodel, to compute the spatial and temporal distribution of external inputs of contaminants to the river from both point and non-point sources,
  2. hydrodynamic transport submodel;
  3. sediment transport submodel,
  4. physical-chemical toxics submodel, to incorporate the transport and sediment submodels into a framework that includes those processes affecting contaminant fluxes and reactions in the water column and sediments;
  5. food chain bioaccumulation submodel, to calculate body burdens in various trophic levels of the food chain; and
  6. risk analysis submodel for humans and key biota in the system.
  7. Information in the present report will be useful mostly for the first four submodels. Available data are summarized in Chapter 3 and loading calculations are presented in Chapter 4, which concludes with a section outlining loading estimates for a "typical" year.

1.2. Parameters of Interest, Data Sources

Primary parameters of interest are listed in Table 1. Field data were collected and analyzed for most of the contaminants by researchers at Buffalo State College. Other sources of information include the USACOE, NYSDEC, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Buffalo Sewer Authority (BSA) and Canada Centre for Inland Waters (CCIW). A summary of available data is shown in Table 2.

Water column data for most of the conventional parameters were collected by researchers from NYSDEC (in a separate project) and from Buffalo State College. The DEC data were collected mostly during the summers of 1988 and 1990, with other metals and TSS data collected in December 1991 and spring 1992. Water column profiles were measured at about 10 different stations along the river. The Buffalo State data include water column profiles measured at the six ARCS sites (see below), with an intensive sampling effort over late spring to early fall, 1991. Because the main focus of the present report concerns pollutant loadings and mass balance modeling, the data reported here focuses primarily on the pollutants of interest, listed in Table 1. The main exception to this is in Section 3.2.1., which lists downstream boundary conditions (concentrations) for most of the conventional parameters of interest. These data are included here because they are not as readily available as the water column data.

Data were collected for pollutant analyses as part of the ARCS project during two primary sampling periods each covering about a week during the fall of 1990 and spring of 1992. Specific sampling dates were October 18, 22, 27, 31, November 5, 9, 13, 1990, and April 4, 18 and 22, 1992. For the 1990 period samples were taken from 6 sites along the lower part of the river, as shown in Figure 3. Only sites 1, 3 and 6 were sampled during the 1992 period. Distances for each site relative to the river mouth are listed in Table 3.

Note: Abbreviations used in the above table (and elsewhere in this report) are as follows: CAH chlorinated aromatic hydrocarbon, PCB - polychlorinated biphenyl, PAH - polychlorinated aromatic hydrocarbon, TOC - total organic carbon, DOC - dissolved organic carbon.


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