State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2008DE125B
Title: Spatial and Temporal Integration of Pollution History in the Christina River Basin Using Sediment Cores from Bread and Cheese Island
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2008
End Date: 2/28/2009
Congressional District: At-large
Focus Categories: Geochemical Processes, Non Point Pollution, Sediments
Keywords: sediments, biogeochemistry, water supply, pollution
Principal Investigator: Fernandez, Cristina
Federal Funds: $ 1,750
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 3,500
Abstract: Bread and Cheese Island is a seasonal wetland bisected by I-95 between Wilmington and Newark, Delaware. It is located where three major creeks in New Castle County join before merging with Brandywine River. The watersheds of the three creeks together cover 239 square miles, which is about 40 % of the Christina River Basin. Currently, approximately 75 % of the public water supply in New Castle County comes from the Christina River Basin which has been heavily affected by all types of human land use activities. Early European settlers in the watershed are believed to have accelerated soil erosion, and their mill dams trapped eroded sediments in reservoirs. Later, the streams and watersheds were exposed to metals and organic pollutants produced in local chemical industries. More recently, rapidly expanding suburban housing, which inevitably involves bulldozing the top soils, has resulted in the introduction of significant amount of sediments into these creeks. This site has also been considered a potential location for a water-supply reservoir, however, a previous engineering study found unacceptable levels of organic contamination in the sediment. The presence of contaminants has not been independently verified or compared to age dates of the sediments.

The purpose of this study is to use sediment cores from Bread and Cheese Island to integrate the pollution and soil erosion history within the White Clay Creek River Basin over the time scales of decades to century. The sedimentary record in depositional locations within the watershed basin, when combined with the pollutants complexed onto the mineral surface within the sediment, can be effectively used to reconstruct the pollution history of the area.

Progress/Completion Report, PDF

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