Assessing ongoing sources of dissolved-phase polychlorinated biphenyls in a contaminated stream



Few studies assess the potential of ongoing sources of “fresh” polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to aquatic systems when direct discharge to the environment has been eliminated. In the present study, the authors used single-layered, low-density polyethylene samplers (PEs) to measure total PCB concentrations, congener profiles, and enantiomeric fractions (EFs) in a contaminated stream and to provide multiple lines of evidence for assessing ongoing inputs of PCB. Concentrations were well above background levels that have been monitored for years. Concentrations significantly increased with distance, the farthest downstream PE concentrations being almost five times greater than those at 79 m downstream of a historical point source. The PCBs in the PEs at 79 m downstream of the contamination source were dominated by low KOW congeners, similar to those in the mixture of Aroclors 1016 and 1254 (4:1 v/v) historically released from the former capacitor manufacturer. The only two chiral congeners detected in the PEs downstream were PCBs 91 and 95. The EF values were nonracemic for PCB 91, while the values were either racemic or near racemic for PCB 95. Increased PCB concentrations with distance and a congener composition of predominantly low-weight congeners in the PEs at 79 m downstream of the plant site suggested an ongoing PCB source from the plant site. Chiral signatures suggested aerobic biotransformation of dissolved PCBs but did not shed any light on possible ongoing PCB inputs. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2013;32:535–540. © 2012 SETAC