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Environ Sci Technol. 2002 Jan 15;36(2):238-46.

Risk based management of contaminated sediments: consideration of spatial and temporal patterns in exposure modeling.

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  • 1Menzie-Cura & Associates, Inc, Chelmsford, Massachusetts 01824, USA.


This paper addresses interactions among foraging behavior, habitat preferences, site characteristics, and spatial distribution of contaminants in developing PCB exposure estimates for winter flounder at a hypothetical open water dredged material disposal site in the coastal waters of New York and New Jersey (NY-NJ). The implications of these interactions for human health risk estimates for local recreational anglers who fish for and eat flounder are described. The models implemented in this study include a spatial submodel to account for spatial and temporal characteristics of fish exposures and a probabilistic adaptation of the Gobas bioaccumulation model that accounts for temporal variation in concentrations of hydrophobic contaminants in sediment and water. We estimated the geographic distribution of a winter flounder subpopulation offshore of NY-NJ based on species biology and its vulnerability to local recreational fishing, the foraging area of individual fish, and their migration patterns. We incorporated these parameters and an estimate of differential attraction to a management site into a spatially explicit model to assess the range of exposures within the population. The output of this modeling effort, flounder PCB tissue concentrations, provided exposure point concentrations for an estimate of human health risk through ingestion of locally caught flounder. The risks obtained for the spatially nonexplicit case are as much as 1 order of magnitude higher than those obtained with explicit consideration of spatial and temporal characteristics of winter flounder foraging and seasonal migration. This practice of "defaulting" to extremely conservative estimates for exposure parameters in the face of uncertainty ill serves the decision-making process for management of contaminated sediments in general and specifically for disposal of dredged materials. Consideration of realistic spatial and temporal scales in food chain models can help support sediment management decisions by providing a quantitative expression of the confidence in risk estimates.

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