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U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2009-1114

Modeling of Selenium for the San Diego Creek Watershed and Newport Bay, California

By Theresa S. Presser and Samuel N. Luoma


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The San Diego Creek watershed and Newport Bay in southern California are contaminated with selenium (Se) as a result of groundwater associated with urban development overlying a historical wetland, the Swamp of the Frogs. The primary Se source is drainage from surrounding seleniferous marine sedimentary formations. An ecosystem-scale model was employed as a tool to assist development of a site-specific Se objective for the region. The model visualizes outcomes of different exposure scenarios in terms of bioaccumulation in predators using partitioning coefficients, trophic transfer factors, and site-specific data for food-web inhabitants and particulate phases. Predicted Se concentrations agreed well with field observations, validating the use of the model as realistic tool for testing exposure scenarios. Using the fish tissue and bird egg guidelines suggested by regulatory agencies, allowable water concentrations were determined for different conditions and locations in the watershed and the bay. The model thus facilitated development of a site-specific Se objective that was locally relevant and provided a basis for step-by-step implementation of source control.

Version 1.0

First posted June 24, 2009

This report is available only on the Web

For additional information contact:
Theresa Presser

Water Resources National Research Program

This report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); at least version 7 of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Presser, T.S., and Luoma, S.N., 2009, Modeling of selenium for the San Diego Creek watershed and Newport Bay, California: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2009-1114, 48 p. [].




Conceptual Models

Partitioning Coefficient (Kd)

Trophic Transfer Factors (TTFs)




References Cited

twenty eight tables

five figures

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