URI Chemical Oceanographer Studies Narragansett Bay Pollution

Narragansett, R.I. — August 3, 1999 — Because of its proximity to Providence, the changing nature of the adjacent landscape, and the population that gravitates toward its shores, Narragansett Bay is a living laboratory that will always provide substance for scientific study, especially the study of pollution. One of the hydrocarbons that has GSO chemical oceanographer Paul Hartmann busy these days is linear alkylbenzene (LAB) which first started being discharged into the environment in the early 1960s as a byproduct of detergents. Hartmann responded to the recent interest in using LABs to identify the flow of sewage in the marine environment. To conduct this type of analysis, however, a standard reference material has to be used for measurement and comparison. Hartmann, along with his major advisor Dr. James Quinn, and scientists from the Organic Geochemistry Laboratories of the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, experimented with a marine sediment from the National Institute of Standards and Technology with the unimaginative name of SRM1941a. This freeze-dried sediment was selected because it has certified values for many organic and inorganic contaminants that are routinely analyzed throughout the world. The URI and Tokyo University laboratories used three different methods to extract and quantify LABS in SRM1941a. The agreement between the two labs was consistent enough to transfer their analysis methods to determine the amount of LABs in the sediments of Narragansett Bay. Hartmann found that overall, the concentrations of LAB in Narragansett Bay were relatively low, with only about half of the forty stations sampled having LABs above the detection limit. In the urban areas at the head of the bay, findings were quite different. The highest concentration of LAB was found in the Pawtuxet Cove sampling station, downstream from three waste water treatment facilities on the Pawtuxet River. The Providence and Seekonk Rivers had the next two highest concentrations of LABs with sampling stations in the immediate vicinity where sewerage overflow empties into the rivers. “Continued long term monitoring programs for various pollutants are essential to understanding how Narragansett Bay is being affected by changes in population pressures and industrial development,” said Hartmann. “LABs may be potentially useful in assessing the distribution and degradation of domestic waste water from treatment plants and/or combined sewerage overflow.” Hartmann, a native of Essex, Connecticut, lives in Narragansett. He received his B.S. in oceanography from Southern Connecticut State University and is currently working on his Ph.D. in chemical oceanography. Hartmann is the recipient of the Narragansett Electric Coastal Fellowship in Oceanography for 1998-9, which supports Ph.D. candidates, under the guidance of a faculty advisor, working on research projects in and around Narragansett Bay. x-x-x For More Information Contact: Lisa Cugini, (401) 874-6642, lcugini@gso.uri.edu