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Initial Development and Evaluation of a Sediment Quality Index for the Great Lakes Region

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A sediment quality index (SQI) based on the Canadian Water Quality Index was developed and applied to the assessment of sediment quality in two Great Lakes Areas Of Concern where metals are the primary contaminants of potential concern, Peninsula Harbour (Lake Superior) and Collingwood Harbour (Lake Huron). The SQI was calculated according to an equation incorporating two elements; scope--the number of variables that do not meet guideline objectives; and, amplitude--the magnitude by which variables exceed guideline objectives. Categorizations of sediment quality were developed based on SQI scores. The robustness of the SQI was evaluated through comparison of the relative rankings of sediment quality in the two test areas with results obtained from principle components analysis (PCA) incorporating reference sites, and calculations of hazard quotients (HQs). Trends and rankings in sediment quality determined by the SQI were similar to those calculated using PCA at both test areas. The HQs also appeared to be good indicators of sediment quality. Both the SQI and HQ methods are based on existing Sediment Quality Guidelines, but the SQI had the added benefit of allowing straightforward integration of multiple contaminants. The SQI and PCA analyses appeared complementary in that the SQI incorporated information on the number of variables exceeding guideline values and the degree to which these guidelines were exceeded. The PCA allowed a simple check of the SQI by relating test conditions to regional background. It is recommended that this analysis be performed concurrently with SQI to ensure that non-anthropogenic sources of contaminants (metals in this case) are not considered as representing an anthropogenic hazard.
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Keywords: Great Lakes; sediment assessment; sediment quality index; weight-of-evidence

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: National Water Research Institute, 867 Lakeshore Road, Bington, Ontario, Canada L7R 4A6 2: Ontario Region Environment Canada, 867 Lakeshore Road, Bington, Ontario, Canada L7R 4A6

Publication date: October 1, 2002

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