Resistance of Communities to Chronic Haloaromatic Contamination from Biogenic and Anthropogenic Sources

EPA Grant Number: R824776
Title: Resistance of Communities to Chronic Haloaromatic Contamination from Biogenic and Anthropogenic Sources
Investigators: Lincoln, David E. , Lewis, V. Pernell , Lovell, Charles R. , Woodin, Sarah A.
Institution: University of South Carolina at Columbia
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: January 1, 1996 through December 1, 1998
Project Amount: $470,000
RFA: Water and Watersheds (1995) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water and Watersheds , Water


Halogenated aromatic compounds are important pollutants characterized by their toxicity, persistence and accumulation in the environment, and abundant production and frequent use in a variety of industrial processes. This project examines the extent to which the capacity to degrade naturally-occurring halogenated aromatic compounds determines the biological impact of anthropogenic halophenol pollutants on marine benthic communities. The potential for haloaromatic metabolism by organisms at sites with biogenic, bromophenol producing marine worms will be compared to that at a nearby site with substantial haloaromatic contamination from urban, industrial and agricultural runoff. Rapid assay systems will be used to measure enzyme activities and genetic probes will be constructed and used to assess the potential for dehalogenation among the polychaete worms, which dominate these sedimentary ecosystems, and the worm-associated bacteria, as well as other principal community members. The enzyme assays and DNA probes plus induction experiments will enable us to determine if dehalogenation potential is an important determinant of organism survival and persistence in both biogenically and anthropogenically contaminated locations. The presence and abundance of polychaetes at the undisturbed estuarine site which has little input of anthropogenic halogenated compounds site have been determined. Forty percent of the community members were found to contain halogenated metabolites. Sediments in the estuary appeared to contain halometabolites, regardless of whether the large organisms at the immediate site were haloaromatic producers or not. The survey of community composition of the smaller polychaetes, which comprise the largest abundances of intertidal benthic macrobiota, found that sites characterized by diverse sediments had very similar species composition. Two pure bacterial cultures have been isolated from the worm burrows. Both of the cultures have been shown to produce a reductive debrominase. The characterization of one bacterium is complete and characterization of its enzyme is in progress. The goals which are currently being pursued include documenting dehalogenation in these polychaete worm community members employing enzyme assays, antibody detection, and a genetic probe. Additional near term activities include completion of the purification and characterization of the bacterial dehalogenase enzymes and the development of probes to characterize the genetic potential for dehalogenation by bacteria associated with the macrofauna. Dehalogenation activities against brominated (common biogenic) and chlorinated (common anthropogenic) haloaromatics will be tested. Our findings to date highlight the abundance and broad distribution of benthic macro- and micro-organisms capable of production and/or degradation of halometabolites. A large proportion of invertebrate taxa which are numerically dominant in coastal marine sediments are halometabolite producers and likely produce dehalogenating enzymes. Bacterial communities associated with these organisms also appear to be enriched in haloaromatic-degrading species. The potential of these benthic communities to carry out dehalogenation of natural and anthropogenic haloaromatic compounds appears to be quite high and will be characterized through this study. This project will improve our ability to assess impacts of persistent haloaromatic compounds on biota by determining the abilities of these organisms to detoxify a contaminated environment.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 27 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 16 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

water, sediments, marine, estuary, ecological effects, population, enzymes, chemicals, toxics, PAHs, organics, ecosystem, restoration, aquatic, habitat, environmental chemistry, biology, ecology, genetics, zoology, survey, southeast, South Carolina, SC, Region 4., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Waste, Water, Geographic Area, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Water & Watershed, Hydrology, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Ecosystem Protection, exploratory research environmental biology, Chemical Mixtures - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Contaminated Sediments, Environmental Chemistry, Chemistry, State, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Ecological Effects - Human Health, Wet Weather Flows, Agronomy, Biology, Ecological Indicators, EPA Region, Watersheds, anthropogenic stresses, ecological exposure, region 4, anthropogenic processes, urbanization, anthropogenic stress, aquatic ecosystem, contaminant transport, agricultural discharges, biological condition, contaminated sediment, agricultural watershed, runoff, sediment, urban runoff, enzyme assays, citizen perceptions, industrial chemicals, bromophenol producing marine worms, ecological impacts, biogenic haloaromatic contamination, gene probes, aquatic ecosystems, water quality, South Carolina (SC), ecosystem response , haloaromatic contamination, anthropogenic haloaromatic contamination, chronic haloaromatic contamination, ecological response

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1996
  • 1997
  • Final Report