Environmental toxicology and chemistry

Reductive dechlorination of polychlorinated biphenyls in sediment from the Twelve Mile Creek arm of Lake Hartwell, South Carolina, USA.

PMID 12785576


Lake Hartwell is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir system located on the state line between South Carolina and Georgia, USA. The lake was contaminated with an estimated 200 metric tons of polychlorinated biphenyls ([PCBs]; mainly Aroclor 1016 and 1254), and the entire Twelve Mile Creek watershed and the Seneca River arm of Lake Hartwell were placed on the National Priorities List. Monitored natural attenuation was chosen as a remedy for the contaminated sediment. The relatively warm temperature of Lake Hartwell and lack of significant cocontaminants along with the PCBs distinguish this site from others that have been studied for microbially mediated reductive dechlorination. Microcosm studies were conducted with sediment from two locations in the Twelve Mile Creek arm and confirmed the presence of indigenous microorganisms capable of reductively dechlorinating Aroclor 1254, which contains predominantly tetra-, penta-, and hexachlorobiphenyl. The average number of total chlorines per biphenyl decreased from 4.8 to 4.9 to 2.9 to 3.0, following 250 to 260 d of incubation. The maximum observed dechlorination rates were 0.29 to 0.87 microg-atoms Cl- per gram sediment dry weight per week. The onset of dechlorination activity correlated strongly with maximum methanogenesis, which occurred without a lag in samples from the site that showed signs of in situ fermentation activity. Dechlorination occurred primarily at the meta and para positions (58-63% removal), with no apparent decrease in ortho chlorines. This most closely resembles pattern M, characterized by preferential removal of unflanked and flanked meta chlorines. The microcosm results are consistent with sediment cores analyzed from the same locations, which indicate accumulation with depth of the same ortho- and para-substituted congeners. It therefore appears that the success of monitored natural attenuation for Lake Hartwell will hinge on covering the recalcitrant PCBs with a sufficient amount of uncontaminated sediment to isolate them from the food chain.