Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Rapports Proces-Verbaux Reunions Conseil International Exploration Mer



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The escape of Kepone into the James River estuary, Virginia, for more than nine years produced widespread contamination of the sediments with important ecological consequences. The pollutant extended seaward more than 100 km from its source and contaminated an estimated 31 million tonnes of sediment to depths of more than 60 cm. Kepone spread through the food chain and to every segment of the environment from marshes to the channel floor.

Kepone escaped mainly during high river inflow from a point source in freshwater tributaries. Near the source Kepone is associated with organic material but in the low er estuary it is adsorbed on fine­grained sediment. A bulk of the contaminated sediment is transported and trapped by the estuarine circulation. It accumulates in the turbidity maximum of the middle estuary far from the source. In this zone it is deposited in less energetic sites where sedimentation is relatively fast. Contamination extends downward > 60 cm ; peak concentrations at 10 to 25 cm relate to high production in 1974. The Kepone inventory is now being buried by less contaminated sediment. “ Recovery” is most rapid in the middle estuary where contamination was most intense.


Chlordecone -- Environmental aspects -- Virginia