Combined application of δ13C and molecular ratios in sediment cores for PAH source apportionment in the New York/New Jersey harbor complex

Beizhan Yan, Teofilo A. Abrajano*, Richard F. Bopp, Lucille A. Benedict, Damon A. Chaky, Eric Perry, Jing Song, Dennis P. Keane

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Sub-basins within the New York/New Jersey (NY/NJ) Harbor host variable amounts and sources of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Analyses of radionuclides 137Cs and 7Be were used to assign approximate dates to individual sections of sediment cores collected from four major sub-basins of the harbor complex. Sampling sites range from heavily contaminated Newark Bay and Passaic River to less contaminated Raritan Bay and Jamaica Bay. PAHs were identified with GC-MS and quantified by GC respectively. Gas chromatography-isotope ratio mass spectrometry (GC/IRMS) was applied to determine δ13C values of pyrene (δ13CPy), a principal 4 ring parent PAH. Two end-member PAH source components, petroleum-related PAHs (PRPAH) and combustion-related PAHs (CRPAH), were calculated from a carbon isotopic mass balance equation based on assumptions that petroleum-related δ13CPy is -29‰, and that combustion-derived δ13CPy is -24‰. Temporal trends of PRPAH in these cores are similar to those of the petroleum-derived unresolved complex mixture (UCM), whereas CRPAH resembled trends of "Total" PAH (TPAH). Three molecular ratios, fluoranthene to fluoranthene plus pyrene (Fl/(Fl + Py)), high molecular weight 4-6 ring PAH to total PAH (Ring456/TPAH) and parent to total (Par/(Par + Alkyl)), correlate strongly with each other, and show a moderate to strong positive correlation with δ13CPy. In contrast, the ratios of anthracene to phenanthrene plus anthracene (A/(Pa + A)), benzo[a]anthracene to benzo[a]anthracene plus chrysene (BaA/(BaA+Chy)), and indeno[1,2,3-cd]pyrene to indeno[1,2,3-cd]pyrene plus benzo[ghi]perylene (IP/(IP + Bghi)) show no, weak, or even negative correlation with the four well correlated ratios (δ13CPy, Par/(Par + Alkyl), Fl/(Fl + Py), and Ring456/TPAH). Combined application of the four well correlated molecular indicators suggests that PAH contribution from combustion became more important in most areas of the NY/NJ Harbor during the last three decades of the 20th century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)674-687
Number of pages14
JournalOrganic Geochemistry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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