A Unique Characterization of Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) Fate in Lake Hartwell

EPA Grant Number: F6E10290
Title: A Unique Characterization of Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) Fate in Lake Hartwell
Investigators: Gallagher, Jeffrey S.
Institution: Clemson University
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: September 1, 2006 through September 1, 2008
Project Amount: $111,172
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Aquatic Ecosystems , Fellowship - Aquatic Systems Ecology


Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a class of 209 synthetic organic compounds that have been linked to carcinogenesis and immune system depression in mammalian experiments. PCB mixtures have stable chemical properties and were commercially produced and sold between the 1930s and 1977 as dielectric fluids in capacitors, plastic products, dyes, and for other applications. The unusual stability of their chemical properties contributes to the environmental persistence of PCBs. In South Carolina, Sangamo-Weston, a capacitor manufacturer, discharged an estimated 400,000 lbs of PCBs into the Twelve Mile Creek Arm of Lake Hartwell between 1955 and 1977, contaminating sediments in this part of the lake. Interestingly, only fifteen peer-reviewed publications exist discussing PCBs in Lake Hartwell. These publications focus on PCB chemistry; and hence, little is known about PCB bioavailability. This presents a unique opportunity to study the bioavailability of PCBs, and, in particular, the transfer of PCBs from the aquatic to the terrestrial food chain.


Specific research objectives are to: a) characterize the influence of sediment organic matter quality on PCB bioavailability to benthic invertebrates; b) quantify the potential for PCB transfer through the food chain from the aquatic to the terrestrial ecosystem; and c) verify laboratory results from objectives a and b by monitoring PCB body burdens through the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in the Twelve Mile Creek Arm of Lake Hartwell.

Expected Results:

Bioavailability of sediment-bound PCBs will be quantified through sequential 28-d bioaccumulation experiments with Lumbriculus variegatus, a benthic oligochaete. Different allocthonous and autochthonous sources of organic matter will be amended to Lake Hartwell sediment prior to experimental initiation. Chironomus tentans, a sediment-dwelling emergent insect, will be exposed seasonally to Lake Hartwell sediments collected from five locations in either 10-d toxicity experiments or 65-d life cycle assessment experiments. The proposed research at the aquatic/terrestrial interface will measure the PCB concentrations in soil, sediment, plants, and insects from at least five locations throughout Twelve Mile Creek and through multiple seasons.

Supplemental Keywords:

Results of sequential 28-d bioaccumulation experiments will provide data to risk managers to decide which organic matter source will ultimately decrease risk to aquatic biota. Results of insect emergence experiments will provide estimates of PCB export from Lake Hartwell. Results of the food web experiments will generate comprehensive PCB measurements at the aquatic / terrestrial interface, which will help scientists to better understand PCB movement from the aquatic to the terrestrial environments,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Aquatic Ecosystems & Estuarine Research, Aquatic Ecosystem, Biochemistry, Environmental Monitoring, contaminant exposure, food chain, food web, aquatic food web, contaminated sediment, aquatic sediments, aquatic ecosystems

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2007
  • Final