Accumulation of muds and metals in the Hudson River estuary turbidity maximum

M. G. Menon, R. J. Gibbs, A. Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the Hudson River estuary, fine mud and toxic metals are enriched in the upstream turbidity maximum. The mechanisms causing the enrichment were assessed through the analysis of suspended-sediment concentration (SSC) (bottom and surface), particle size, and trace metal distributions. Bottom SSCs varied across the study area by a factor of ten, and the turbidity maximum activity was observed in between kilometers 45 and 80. The particle-size analysis defined two accumulation modes: <4.65 and >22.1 μm. The ratio of the fine-to-coarse mode increased from 1.75 to 2.75 in the turbidity maximum. The fine mud concentration (55-60%) in the turbidity maximum was found to have a high correlation (r = 0.98; p < 0.005) with the concentration of < 2-μm particles. A conceptual model was derived in order to understand the possible mechanisms by which free mud (and specifically < 2-μm particles) is concentrated. The two dominant size modes were analyzed for toxic metals. The upstream tributaries are major sources of metals compared to point sources at downstream locations. In the turbidity maximum, Cd, Cu, Zn, and Pb are significantly enriched compared to average shale metal values and ERM toxicity guidelines by 580, 42, 10, 16 and 12, 7, 2.4, 1.4 times, respectively. Decreasing metal concentrations downstream of the turbidity maximum imply that Haverstraw Bay acts as temporary storage for fine particles and enriched metals. It is demonstrated in this study that toxic metals are enriched in Haverstraw Bay due to the mud accumulation. The high levels of toxic metals in the sediments of the Hudson River estuary are a major concern because human activities (dredging and river traffic) cause resuspension of sediments and can change the mobility patterns of bioavailable contaminants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)214-222
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Geology
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - May 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Estuary
  • Heavy metals
  • Hudson River
  • Mud
  • Turbidity maximum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Pollution
  • Soil Science


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