Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal (IHSC) is an active navigational system that serves a heavily industrial area of southern Lake Michigan. We have determined the amount of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), congener distributions, sorbent types and potential for dioxin-like PCB toxicity from two IHSC sediment cores. Vertical distributions of ∑PCBs (sum of 161 individual or coeluting congeners) ranged from 410 to 91000 and 1800 to 41000 ng g−1 dry weight (d.w.) for cores 1 and 2, respectively. Core 1 showed its highest accumulation rate for the year ~1979 and exhibits a strong Aroclor 1248 signal in sediments accumulating over the last 60 years. It appears that from the late 1930s until the beginning of the 1980s there was a large and constant input of PCBs into this system. This pattern differs from lake cores from the Great Lakes region which commonly exhibit a rapid increase, a peak, followed by a sharp decrease in the PCB accumulation rates. Core 2 also has a strong Aroclor 1248 signal in the top layers, but deeper layers show evidence of mixtures of Aroclors and/or weathering processes. High levels of black carbon as a fraction of total organic carbon were found in both cores (median ~30%), which reflect the long history of local combustion sources. No strong relationship was found between ∑PCB concentration and sorbents. Both cores contain dioxin-like PCBs that are highest in concentration below the surface. The high levels of PCBs in the deep sediments are of concern because of plans to dredge this system.
Keywords: PCBs, sediment, core, Aroclor 1248, TEQs