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Volume

4

Issue

1

Abstract

Tidal creeks transport both dissolved and particulate natural organic carbon materials and contaminants, connecting land-based activities with estuarine surface waters. It is important to characterize these materials in tidal creeks because it provides insights as to their origins and potential for ecosystem impacts. Surface water samples were collected from Bull Creek, Charleston, SC, a semi-urbanized tidal creek wetland, on five sampling dates from fall 2015 to spring 2016 to measure total suspended solids (TSS), turbidity, dissolved organic carbon (DOC), SUVA254 (specific absorbance as an indicator of aromaticity of DOC), and total water concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a ubiquitous class of hydrophobic organic contaminants of concern. Stream discharge was also measured to allow an estimation of material flux. One of the sampling dates captured these parameters following a historic rainfall related to Hurricane Joaquin in October 2015, and therefore the aim of the present study is to characterize the sources and to quantify the transport of carbonaceous materials and PAHs in Bull Creek, with a focus on the response to this storm event. The quality of suspended solids and DOC were different following the October storm event in comparison to the other sampling dates, and they were more terrestrially derived as shown by shifts in SUVA254 and correlations between TSS and turbidity. Elevated levels of PAHs were detected in Bull Creek after the storm, and diagnostic ratios indicated that additional mixed sources were mobilized by the event. Combining the measures of both carbonaceous material quality and PAH profile contributed to a better understanding of the sources to the tidal creek. Shifts in PAH sources and suspended materials have implications for PAH toxicity to aquatic life, as well as for the appropriate approach to water quality monitoring. Future work should aim to develop relationships between discharge, suspended materials, and PAHs to facilitate more continuous monitoring of material transport in tidal creeks, especially during storm events, which have a strong influence on water quality.

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