Cefic-lri Programme | European Chemical Industry Council

Estuarine modelling – Compilation and validation of sub-models for distribution and fate of contaminants in estuarine systems.


The marine environment can be divided into 3 separate compartments: offshore, estuarine and coastal zones. There is a lack of methodology for the assessment of substance behaviour in these environments. The estuarine compartment is considered to be of particular importance because a large number of substances pass through from rivers at higher concentration than in the marine compartment, and estuarine distribution determines the final distribution of substances in the marine environment.
There is a need to develop mathematical models which are capable of incorporating disturbance of silt by Neap and Spring tides, bathymetry, salinity profile, and variation of freshwater flow rate, all of which displace huge quantities of matter together with associated substances, and potentially change the distribution of mud flats, sediment deposition, pH and oxygen concentration, in order to provide a workable alternative to simple dilution factors currently being discussed at the EU Technical Meetings on Risk Assessment.


Proposals submitted for consideration should follow the format of the application form'Application for a CEFIC-LRI Grant' and should address the following areas under individual sub-headings:

  • The title of the research proposal
  • The name and affiliation of the Principal Investigator and the laboratory or laboratories in which the research will be conducted
  • Evidence of the Principal Investigator's knowledge of, and contributions to, current understanding of database management, geo-referenced modelling, bioaccumulation and food chain modelling and software developments in marine environments
  • A clear definition of the research objectives, including a description of the proposed approach.
  • A detailed plan of investigation, including a clearly defined milestone plan which identifies all critical decision points in the research programme
  • A detailed breakdown of costs

The successful applicant(s) will be required to submit a progress report every 6 months during the course of the programme. At the end of the project a detailed review of the project and the achievements made will be provided by the principal investigator. The successful applicant or applicants will also be required to prepare for publication a manuscript describing the work undertaken and the results achieved.



The proposed models (1-D but preferentially extendable to 2 or 3-D) should be adaptable to specific estuaries, taking into account the range of values found for each of the aforementioned parameters, the geomorphic variables and specific or generic scenarios. A marine food chain model could be incorporated in order to determine the flux of contaminants through the different trophic levels. The model(s) should provide concentration levels of contaminants in estuaries for both sediment and water and also information on contaminant fluxes to open waters. The model should also be able to determine future levels of contaminants in the estuary based on predicted input values. It could be used in the current risk assessment process for the calculation of PEClocal and PECregional in the cases where effluent is discharged directly into estuaries.Stages envisaged in the project include the assembly of sub-models, calibrated using one or two substances in a single estuary ; further studies on several estuaries so that the compartments could be adapted to produce a « virtual estuary »; an integrated model with minimal input of bathymetric, tidal and physico-chemical data that could be used by trained personnel to determine contaminant distribution in any kind of theoretical European estuary and with any substance; an indication of biomagnification in estuarine food chains from the food chain sub-model using the PECestuarine ; and validation of the model with data from a series of high production volume substances.

Timing: 3 years

Cost: Estimated maximum of $400,000

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