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Science support for evaluating natural recovery of polychlorinated biphenyl concentrations in fish from Crab Orchard Lake, Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, Illinois

May 15, 2018


Crab Orchard Lake in southern Illinois is one of the largest and most popular recreational lakes in the state. Construction of the nearly 7,000-acre reservoir in the late 1930s created employment opportunities through the Works Progress Administration, and the lake itself was intended to supply water, control flooding, and provide recreational opportunities for local communities (Stall, 1954). In 1942, the Department of War appropriated or purchased more than 20,000 acres of land around Crab Orchard Lake and constructed the Illinois Ordnance Plant, which manufactured bombs and anti-tank mines during World War II. After the war, an Act of Congress transferred the property to the U.S. Department of the Interior. Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge was established on August 5, 1947, for the joint purposes of wildlife conservation, agriculture, recreation, and industry. Production of explosives continued, but new industries also moved onsite. More than 200 tenants have held leases with Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge and have operated a variety of manufacturing plants (electrical components, plated metal parts, ink, machined parts, painted products, and boats) on-site. Soils, water, and sediments in several areas of the refuge were contaminated with hazardous substances from handling and disposal methods that are no longer acceptable environmental practice (for example, direct discharge to surface water, use of unlined landfills).

Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination at the refuge was identified in the 1970s, and a PCB-based fish-consumption advisory has been in effect since 1988 for Crab Orchard Lake. The present advisory covers common carp (Cyprinus carpio) and channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus); see Illinois Department of Public Health (2017). Some of the most contaminated areas of the refuge were actively remediated, and natural ecosystem recovery processes are expected to further reduce residual PCB concentrations in the lake. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sought technical support to understand environmental drivers of current (2017) PCB residues in fish tissue and patterns in PCB residues through time to inform the fish-consumption advisory for Crab Orchard Lake. This project is planned in two phases (Tasks 1 and 2); the first phase is included in this report.

  • Task 1, reported here, includes a review of existing literature and a brief overview focused on environmental and biochemical/physiological processes that drive PCB residues in fish tissue. This review specifically targets processes that are relevant for freshwater lacustrine environments such as those at Crab Orchard Lake. In addition to discussions of environmental fate, metabolism, and accumulation of PCBs, this review includes a brief scientifically based explanation of approaches used to establish fish-consumption advisories.
  • A planned second task (Task 2) will include a compilation and summary of existing data on PCB residues in fish tissue samples from Crab Orchard Lake. This summary will also place Crab Orchard Lake data in a broader geographic context through a comparison with fish data from other Midwestern lakes.

When Task 1 and Task 2 are complete, resource managers will have (a) a synthesis of existing literature that characterizes the processes influencing the fate of residual PCBs remaining in systems such as Crab Orchard Lake, (b) a summary of natural PCB attenuation processes for use in risk communication with the public, and (c) a summary of existing data on PCBs in fish tissues from Crab Orchard Lake, including exploratory plots of tissue residues through time. Overall, this project will provide data to help resource managers better understand the ecological and public health consequences of residual PCBs in Crab Orchard Lake.

Publication Year 2018
Title Science support for evaluating natural recovery of polychlorinated biphenyl concentrations in fish from Crab Orchard Lake, Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, Illinois
DOI 10.3133/ofr20181006
Authors Bethany K. Kunz, Jo Ellen Hinck, Robin Calfee, Greg L. Linder, Edward E. Little
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2018-1006
Index ID ofr20181006
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Columbia Environmental Research Center