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Variation in natural attenuation rates of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in fish from streams and reservoirs in East Tennes...

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Journal of Hazardous Materials
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Environmental contamination due to human activities is a major concern, particularly for persistent chemicals. Within catchments, persistent chemicals linked to negative health outcomes such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have great potential to be transported, through adsorption or biological uptake, with downstream locations acting as sinks for accumulation. Here we present long-term trends in PCB bioaccumulation in fish found in lower-order tributaries on the Oak Ridge Reservation, an impacted US Department of Energy property in East Tennessee, USA, and a large reservoir system adjacent to it composed of parts of the Clinch and Tennessee Rivers. Given that the reservoir system has experienced no direct PCB mitigation activities, this record offers an opportunity to explore potential natural attenuation of PCBs within a large lotic ecosystem. Attenuation rates ranged from 0% to 8% yr-1 in minnows and sunfish at stream sites and 5.4–11.3% yr-1 in catfish at reservoir sites. These rates are comparable to findings from similar studies in other regions, suggesting a consistency in responses since the banning of PCB production in 1979. Further, results suggest that PCB sources from discharge outfalls are important locally but are not primarily responsible for sustaining PCB contamination in downstream reservoirs.