Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 120, Issue 1, pp 559-574

First online:

Use of the p,p'-DDD: p,p'-DDE Concentration Ratio to Trace Contaminant Migration from a Hazardous Waste Site

  • Alfred E. PinkneyAffiliated withU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Chesapeake Bay Field Office Email author 
  • , Peter C. McgowanAffiliated withU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Chesapeake Bay Field Office

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


For approximately 50 years, beginning in the 1920s, hazardous wastes were disposed in an 11-hectare area of the Marine Corps Base (MCB) Quantico, Virginia, USA known as the Old Landfill. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and DDT compounds were the primary contaminants of concern. These contaminants migrated into the sediments of a 78-hectare area of the Potomac River, the Quantico Embayment. Fish tissue contamination resulted in the MCB posting signs along the embayment shoreline warning fishermen to avoid consumption. In this paper, we interpret total PCB (t-PCBs) and total DDT (t-DDT, sum of six DDT, DDD, and DDE isomers) data from monitoring studies. We use the ratio of p,p'-DDD to p,p'-DDE concentrations as a tracer to distinguish site-related from regional contamination. The median DDD/DDE ratio in Quantico Embayment sediments (3.5) was significantly higher than the median ratio (0.71) in sediments from nearby Powells Creek, used as a reference area. In general, t-PCBs and t-DDT concentrations were significantly higher in killifish (Fundulus diaphanus) and carp (Cyprinus carpio) from the Quantico Embayment compared with Powells Creek. For both species, Quantico Embayment fish had mean or median DDD/DDE ratios greater than one. Median ratios were significantly higher in Quantico Embayment (4.6) than Powells Creek (0.28) whole body carp. In contrast, t-PCBs and t-DDT in channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) fillets were similar in Quantico Embayment and Powells Creek collections, with median ratios of 0.34 and 0.26, respectively. Differences between species may be attributable to movement (carp and killifish being more localized) and feeding patterns (carp ingesting sediment while feeding). We recommend that environmental scientists use this ratio when investigating sites with DDT contamination.


bioavailability DDD DDE DDT environmental fate hazardous waste sites PCBs