Superfund Research Program
Bridging Superfund Site Based Bioavailable Extracts with Biology
Project Leader: Kim A. Anderson
Grant Number: P42ES016465
Funding Period: 2009-2025
Project Summary (2013-2020)
The organizations that remediate Superfund sites face the challenge of how to measure success; i.e., how to assess the changes in the bioavailability of contaminants. They need quantitative tools that can characterize contaminants and predict their risk to local organisms and humans. Non-chemical factors such as ultra-violet radiation can transform the parent compounds into unmonitored chemicals that can change the toxicity of waters and sediments.
To address this issue, the research team has developed passive sampling devices (PSDs) that can sequester thousands of bioavailable chemicals. These devices can help regulatory agencies to evaluate new remediation technologies that may either produce or release previously unmonitored chemicals. These PSDs are now sequestering chemicals at multiple Superfund sites, where they capture relevant organic compounds, including hydrophilic and semi-polar contaminants.
The research team is testing the hypotheses that:
- PSDs sequester realistic and relevant mixtures from Superfund sites
- PSDs can help researchers to characterize exposure accurately
- PSDs can simplify toxicity assessments
- PSDs can evaluate the effectiveness of remediation, considering not only the target contaminants but also any perturbations of the system that the remediation technologies may have induced
- PSDs can serve as biological surrogates in public health assessments of Superfund sites.
The researchers are developing a set of widely applicable bio-analytical tools and integrating these tools with bioassays to characterize Superfund sediments. The research team assumes that a small minority of the chemicals at Superfund sites are responsible for the majority of the toxicity. They are applying stressors to PSD extracts and characterizing the chemical and biological effects. The researchers are delivering methods and tools to assess the impact of non-chemical/chemical stressors that act on Superfund mixtures during natural transformation processes and remediation.
The research team is also developing PSD-bioaccumulation models that can predict chemical load in aquatic tissues with useful accuracy on the basis of measured PSD extracts. The ability to predict aquatic tissues from PSD extracts will enable Superfund managers and public health officials to collect data with better temporal and spatial resolution.