National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 1988

Contaminant transport from Elliott and Commencement Bays

Curl, Jr., H.C., E.T. Baker, T.S. Bates, G.A. Cannon, R.A. Feely, T.L. Geiselman, M.F. Lamb, P.P. Murphy, D.J. Pashinski, A.J. Paulson, and D.A. Tennant

NOAA Tech. Memo. ERL PMEL-78, NTIS: PB88-219456, 136 pp (1988)

Major sources of contamination to Puget Sound are concentrated in the urban embayments. Most of these contaminants are particulates or adhere to particles. If these particulates are dense, they tend to fall out of the water column near the source; thus analysis of the sediment within urban embayments can provide an indication of the level of contamination, and by proximity, of the probable source of that contamination. The question remains however, to what degree are contaminants transported, away from the original source, out of the embayment, and are carried into the main basin of the Sound. In other words, to what extent is incoming contamination localized, or Sound-wide in nature. In order to determine this we attempted to answer the following research questions: 1) What is the relative importance of the surface, fresh water plume versus the bottom resuspended (nepheloid layer)? 2) How much does transport vary seasonally, particularly as affected by winter runoff? 3) Is there loss to the bottom from the surface plume? 4) Are contaminants remobilized from the bottom sediments? During spring and summer 1985, and again in January 1986, the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) of NOAA made a series of observations designed to determine to what degree contaminants in Elliott and Commencement Bays could leave the bays and enter the main basin of Puget Sound. The approach employed in this study was to map the distributions of water properties (salinity, suspended particulate matter or SPM, and toxic trace metals and organics) during a period of high river runoff (April 4-5, 1985, Elliott and Commencement Bay) and during combined sewer overflow (CSO) events (January 8-9, 1986, Elliott Bay only) after heavy rainfall. Current meters and sediment traps were deployed in Elliott Bay south of the Pier 90 anchorage and in Commencement Bay in the outer, center of the bay. The current meters provide a continuous record of salinity, temperature, current speed and direction which allows a calculation of horizontal transport.

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