Mixed contaminants in large river systems

The Clinch River study

In a remediation investigation study conducted under the auspices of Superfund, biological indicators were used to assess the effects hat multiple contaminants such as heavy metals and PCBs had on the health of bluegill and largemouth bass in the Clinch River/Watts Bar Reservoir ecosystem in Tennessee.

Individual Responses

Relationships between three levels of bioindicators at sites in the Clinch River/Watts Bar Reservoir system were studied. In general, high levels of detoxification enzymes at the more contaminated sites were related to poorer health (indicated by high index values) of individual fish and low fish community diversity. Conversely, low levels of contaminant exposure generally were related to good health of individual fish and to high levels of community diversity.

Integrated Responses

Multivariate health responses of largemouth bass were recorded for the most contaminated site in the Clinch River/Watts Bar Reservoir system (red), moderately contaminated site (blue), and reference sites.


For more information about research on the Clinch River,
visit the Clinch River Environmental Restoration Program home page.

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