This project further developed and field-tested an in situ passive multi-sampler to quantify polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs), and other hydrophobic organic contaminants (HOCs), such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in sediment and water column. The novel sampler was validated and field-tested – without the need for divers - both in shallow and deep sediments at several sites along the Passaic River (NJ) and Newark Bay (NJ/NY). The proposed technology development thus continued to address key SERDP objectives, to ‘Develop a multi-purpose passive sampling device capable of collecting data on several contaminants of interest; […] in sediment and the immediate overlying surface water’.

Technical Approach

The technical approach consisted of the construction, deployment, and validation of a modified sediment porewater multi-sampler for dioxins/furans and other HOCs. The construction of a passive multi-sampler in the flukes of a Danforth-style anchor was optimized in field tests. Initial field trials needed a diver to ensure deployments, while the final field deployment proceeded without divers. Performance reference compounds were included to be able to correct for the lack of equilibrium of target HOCs during field deployments. At each site, sediment grabs were collected to derive HOC porewater concentrations through ex situ equilibrations.


A first major deployment trial in Newark Bay included a comparison to a previously circular sampler and sediment equilibrations for PCBs and PCDD/Fs. The retrieval rate of the Danforth anchors exceeded 80%, and was helped by the use of extra anchor chain. At all sites, porewater concentrations derived from ex situ equilibrations exceeded those from the in situ passive samplers. A second field trial across Newark Bay confirmed the easy deployment of these anchor based passive samplers without the need for divers; again retrievals were mostly successful. The comparison of ex situ versus in situ porewater concentrations again showed ex situ concentrations of PCBs to exceed in situ concentrations by 2-3 fold. At most sites, PCDD/Fs were below detection limits. A newly published standard protocol was followed for the ex situ determination of HOC porewater concentrations that prevented depletion of porewater, which might have contributed to the observed discrepancy. A re-analysis of food web samples from the Passaic River suggested the passive sampling could be a powerful tool to predict HOC concentrations in the storage lipids of biota.


The specific research objective of this project supported the main interest by SERDP and SEED to simplify and speed up acquisition of relevant exposure to contaminants of interest in situ. Following this research, it will then be possible to design and implement projects at current Department of Defense sites to aid in remediation decision making. Benefits of the sampler deployments include optimization of both pre-cleanup design and post-cleanup monitoring of contaminated sites. Potential deployments include contaminated sites such as the Lower Willamette River (WA), sites in the Great Lakes and Newark Bay (NY/NJ), where PCDD/Fs and other organic contaminants, including PCBs, are of concern. The field-tested sampler developed and validated as part of this project can be used to determine temporal and spatial contaminants concentrations in porewater and water column, and be used to predict the bioaccumulation of these contaminants in benthic invertebrates at these sites. (Project Completion - 2022)


Jonker, M.T.O., S.A. van der Heijden, D. Adelman, J.N. Apell, R.M. Burgess, Y. Choi, L.A. Fernandez, G.M. Flavetta, U. Ghosh, P.M. Gschwend, S.E. Hale, M. Jalalizadeh, M. Khairy, M.A. Lampi, W. Lao, R. Lohmann, M.J. Lydy, K.A. Maruya, S.A. Nutile, A.M.P. Oen, M.I. Rakowska, D. Reible, T.P. Rusina, F. Smedes, and Y. Wu. 2018. Advancing the Use of Passive Sampling in Risk Assessment and Management of Contaminated Sediments: Results of an International Passive Sampling Inter-Laboratory Comparison. Environmental Science & Technology, 52(6):3574-3582. 10.1021/acs.est.7b05752

Jonker, M. T. O., R. M. Burgess, U. Ghosh, P. M. Gschwend, S. E. Hale, R. Lohmann, M. J. Lydy, K. A. Maruya, D. Reible, and F. Smedes. 2020. Passive Sampling Protocol for the Ex Situ Determination of Freely Dissolved Concentrations of Organic Contaminants in Sediments and Soils: Basis for Interpreting Toxicity and Assessing Bioavailability, Actual Risks, and Remediation Necessity and Efficiency. Nature Protocols, 15:2020-2038. 

Khairy, M., K. Barrett, and R. Lohmann. 2016. The Changing Sources of Polychlorinated Dibenzo-p-dioxins and Furans in Sediments from the Lower Passaic River and Newark Bay, New Jersey, USA. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 35(3):550-562.

Khairy, M. and R. Lohmann. 2017. Partitioning, Fluxes and Bioaccumulation of PBDEs in an Urban River. Environmental Science & Technology, 51(16):9062-9071.

Khairy, M., G.O. Noonan, and R. Lohmann. 2019. Contrasting Uptake and Bioaccumulation of legacy and emerging contaminants in the Aquatic Food Web of the Lower Passaic River: OCPs, PBDEs and PFAAs. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 38(4):872-882.

Khairy, M. A., and R. Lohmann. 2020. Assessing Benthic Bioaccumulation of Polychlorinated Dioxins/Furans and Polychlorinated Biphenyls in the Lower Passaic River (NJ, USA) Based on In Situ Passive Sampling. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 39(6):1174-1185.

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