Assessing photoinduced toxicity of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in an urbanized estuary
Increases in contaminants associated with urban sprawl are a particular concern in the rapidly developing coastal areas of the southeastern United States. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are contaminants associated with vehicle emissions and runofff from impervious surfaces. Increased vehicular traffic and more impervious surfaces lead to an increased loading of PAHs into coastal estuarine systems. The phototoxic effect of PAH-contaminated sediments on a sediment-dwelling meiobenthic copepod, Amphiascus tenuiremis, was estimated in Murrells Inlet, a small, high-salinity estuary with moderate urbanization located in Georgetown and Horry Counties, South Carolina, USA. Field-determined solar ultraviolet radiation (UV) and UV extinction coefficients were incorporated into laboratory toxicity experiments, and a model was developed to predict areas of specific hazard to A. tenuiremis in the estuary. The model incorporated laboratory toxicity data, UV extinction coefficients, and historical sediment chemistry and bathymetric data within a spatial model of sedimentary areas of the estuary. The model predicted that approximately 8-16% of the total creek habitat suitable for meiobenthic copepods is at risk to photoinduced PAH toxicity. This area is in the northern, more developed part of Murrells Inlet.