U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


Date of this Version



Published in ecological modelling 220 (2009) 254–264.


PCBs from the Sangamo-Weston Superfund Site near Clemson, South Carolina, USA, were released into the Twelvemile Creek Arm of Lake Hartwell until the early 1990s. Monitoring data have shown that while PCB concentration in sediments declined since 1995, PCB concentrations in fish have remained elevated, e.g., largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) concentrations have ranged from 5 to 10 ppm. The EPA aquatic ecosystem model AQUATOX was applied to this system to better characterize foodweb dynamics that lead to biomagnification of PCBs. The model was calibrated with observed fish biomass data. Simulated PCB loading over a 12-year period provided a reasonable fit to observed PCB data in fish. The model demonstrated that contaminated labile detritus loaded to the system was incorporated into the foodweb rather than deposited, thereby maintaining the PCB concentrations in fish while concentrations in the sediment declined. A dominant PCB pathway was from detritus to daphnia to shad to largemouth bass. Fish PCB concentrations showed moderate sensitivity to toxicant parameters; model runs incorporating uncertainty in these parameters predicted recovery (<2ppm PCB) for all species in the range of years from 2008 to 2013. The high sensitivity of the model to parameters related to growth strongly affected PCB concentrations in fish and should be considered in future AQUATOX applications.