Background concentrations of PAHs and metals in surface and subsurface soils collected throughout Manhattan, New York


Background Concentrations of PAHs and Metals in Surface and Subsurface Soils Collected Throughout Manhattan, New York

Nicholas Azzolina (The CETER Group, Inc.)
Yelena Skorobogatov (Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc.)
Joseph P. Kreitinger (U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center)
Richard K. Shaw (U.S. Department of Agriculture National Resources Conservation Service)



                                          Nicholas Azzolina                                       Yelena Skorobogatov

                              The CETER Group, Inc.                   Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc.

Speaker Bios:

Nick Azzolina:

Nick Azzolina is a hydrogeologist and statistician with the Energy & Environmental Research Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and Co-Founder of The CETER Group, Inc., a scientific consulting firm specializing in environmental data analysis.

Yelena Skorobogatov:

Yelena Skorobogatov is a Technical Specialist with Consolidated Edison Company of  New York, Inc. specializing in management of former Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) sites. Ms. Skorobogatov holds a Master of Science Degree in Mining Engineering – Hydrogeology from Moscow Institute of Exploration Geology, Russia.


This presentation will summarize the results from a survey of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) and metal concentrations measured in surface and subsurface soil samples that we collected from background locations throughout Manhattan, New York. Consolidated Edison generated this one-of-a-kind data set in coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. The analyses for each soil sample included 46 different parent and alkylated PAH compounds, 23 metals, total organic carbon, and anthropogenic (black) carbon. We will review site selection, sampling methods, and analytical results. Our results will describe percentile estimates for PAHs and metals, which we calculated using a robust, nonparametric technique called “Kaplan-Meier”. We will compare the results of this study to the Title 6 of the Official Compilation of New York Codes, Rules and Regulations (6 NYCRR) Part 375 Soil Cleanup Objectives (SCOs), in addition to other published studies of background PAH concentrations from Binghamton and Cortland, New York, and Chicago, Illinois. Lastly, we will illustrate the variability in diagnostic PAH source ratios commonly used in forensic evaluation, and discuss how this variability might factor into site characterization. A not-unexpected finding of the study was that most surface soils and all subsurface soils contained a relatively high fraction of anthropogenic carbon, in addition to the presence of historic fill materials such as glass, brick, coal, and slag from more than 400 years of human activity on Manhattan Island. In addition, the concentrations of PAHs and metals measured in Manhattan surface and subsurface soils were generally higher than the SCOs for unrestricted land use. These higher concentration ranges for PAHs and metals coupled with the visual observations of historic fill materials in nearly all soil samples, emphasize that soils in Manhattan are altogether different from rural soils and thus warrant a different framework for site management decisions than rural soils.

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