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Project ID: 2005MD85B

Title: Fingerprinting Sediment to Determine Sources in an Urban Watershed

Project Type: Research

Focus Categories: Sediments, Geochemical Processes, Methods

Keywords: sediment fingerprinting, suspended sediment, urban areas, fallout radionuclides, mixing model, source tracing

Start Date: 03/01/2005

End Date: 12/31/2006

Federal Funds: $14,950

Non-Federal Matching Funds: $33,702

Congressional District: 5

Principal Investigators:
Brian Needelman
University of Maryland

Jerry C. Ritchie

Allen C. Gellis


The Anacostia River drains northern Washington D.C. and adjacent portions of Maryland; the river is degraded by sediment, biological, and organic contaminants. The Anacostia drains to the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, which is affected by excess sediments and associated nutrients. Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) has declined drastically over the past 30 years due to degraded water clarity associated with fine-grained suspended sediment and eutrophication. Knowledge of the sources of this sediment is essential in any effort to restore the Anacostia River and the Chesapeake Bay.

The Chesapeake Bay drains one of the most densely populated areas in the United States. Understanding how urbanization impacts the natural processes of erosion and sediment delivery is important to understanding sediment problems in fresh waters and estuaries. In addition, many contaminants common to urban areas have a propensity to attach to and be transported by fine-grained sediments. Few studies have examined sediment sources or transport in urbanized areas. The Anacostia River drains the highly urbanized area of Washington, D.C. and flows to the Chesapeake Bay. We propose to identify and quantify the source type of fine-grained suspended sediments in the North East Branch of the Anacostia using the sediment fingerprinting technique. Fingerprint components will include nutrients, metals, mineralogy and radionuclides. We will use a statistical model to determine the statistical significance each fingerprint has in identifying sediment sources. A multivariate mixing model will be employed to determine the relative contribution and location of each source type contributing to the suspended sediments. A soil survey will be completed in the North East Branch of the Anacostia to assist in the identification of sediment source locations. Knowledge of the location of sediment sources and its relation to land use and soil distribution will allow science-based management practices to target zones at high risk for sediment loss.

Progress/Completion Report PDF

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Maintained by: John Schefter
Last Updated: Tuesday June 7, 2005 3:32 PM
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