2011 - Assessing Human Impacts and Contaminant Trapping within Oxbow Lake, Northampton, Massachusetts

Grant Award Year: 
Principal Investigator: 
Dr. Jonathan Woodruff
Research Description: 
Sediments within the Connecticut River have inherited a legacy of heavy metal contamination since industrialization began within the watershed in the mid-1800s. Lakes and ponds located along the floodplain of the river likely represent a major sink for introduced contaminants. Here we propose to obtain sediment and associated heavy metal inventories from Oxbow Lake, Northampton, MA, and evaluate changes in the rate of deposition since the formation of the floodplain lake in 1840 AD. We hypothesis that the lake has served as a hotspots for heavy metal contamination since the onset of industrialization, but that major flood control projects in the mid-1950s have decreased the rate of sediment and contaminant accumulation in recent years. Three-dimensional Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) surveys and short-lived radioisotopic dating techniques will be used to map out sediment and contaminant distributions, and evaluate changes in rates of deposition since the formation of the lake in 1840 AD. The project will provide a valuable new data set for evaluating how sediment and associated contaminants have been distributed within the Connecticut River system, and offer new information on how major dam impoundment on the river have impacted the supply of sediment to the floodplain downstream.