Abstract Water and several wild aquatic species including Chinese mysterysnail, prawn, fish, and water snake were collected from a reservoir surrounded by several e-waste recycling workshops in South China. The samples were examined to investigate the levels and bioaccumulation extent of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) released from electronic waste (e-waste) which was processed by crude recycling method. Elevated levels of PBDEs [52.7 to 1702 ng/g wet weight (ww)] and PCBs (20.2–25958 ng/g ww) were found in the collected biota species compared to that in the reference samples (13.0–20.5 ng/g ww for PBDEs and 75.4–82.8 ng/g ww for PCBs). log BAF (bioaccumulation factor) ranged from 2.9 to 5.3 for PBDEs and from 1.2 to 8.4 for PCBs, depending on congeners and species. The relationship between log BAFs and log K OW (octanol–water partition coefficient) can be adequately described by species-specific parabolic models wherein log BAFs generally increased at log K OW < 7 then decreased with further increasing log K OW both for PBDEs and PCBs. The exceptions were for Chinese mysterysnail and prawn, in which the log BAFs showed a positive linear correlation with log K OW for PBDEs. Some PBDE and PCB congeners showed BAF values declining from the general trend predicted by K OW, largely attributing to metabolism of these congeners in species sampled.