Contaminants in fish tissues from AOCs in New York State: The Buffalo River AOC 2-year post remediation

Science Center Objects

Background The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and Department of Health (NYSDOH), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) plan to obtain data on chemical contaminants in fish from multiple Areas of Concern (AOCs) in New York State and use this information to evaluate fish consumption advisories, which are a critical component of most removal criteria for “Restri...

Background

 
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and Department of Health (NYSDOH), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) plan to obtain data on chemical contaminants in fish from multiple Areas of Concern (AOCs) in New York State and use this information to evaluate fish consumption advisories, which are a critical component of most removal criteria for “Restriction on Fish and Wildlife Consumption” beneficial use impairments (BUI). The first project will be implemented in the Buffalo River AOC during summer 2017. This project will help determine if current fish consumption advisories each AOC are appropriate, if they can be modified, and if they support or do not support BUI removal as recommended in the June 2014 “Buffalo River AOC: A Monitoring Plan for the Delisting of Impaired Beneficial Use Impairments” document prepared by the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper. Multiple assessments will be required to demonstrate decreasing contaminant residues (temporal trends) needed for the NYSDOH to reevaluate fish-consumption advisories. 
 
This project will fund the USGS for the first 3 years to help plan, sample fish and tissues in 2017, ship samples, analyze contaminant residues (via a subcontract laboratory), conduct data quality reviews, summarize and analyze data, and prepare and publish a final report or paper for efforts in the Buffalo River AOC. Depending on funding allocations, comparable work may follow in the Niagara River (2018), Eighteenmile Creek (2019+), and St. Lawrence River at Massena NY (2019+) AOCs. This plan requires close collaboration between the USGS and NYSDEC (in planning, sampling, reporting) and the total costs for sampling, subcontract laboratory services (sample analysis), and reporting could vary depending on agency responsibilities, prior funding commitments, sample numbers, and laboratory bids (prices) for analytical services. This effort is contingent on the NYSDEC’s preapproval of all processing laboratory (USGS and subcontractors) data-quality objectives and internal data-quality review and publishing processes.
 
Approach
 
Sampling and analysis of contaminant residues in tissues of 4 fish species at 4 zones in the Buffalo River AOC are scheduled for 2017 to assess BUI #1 removal criteria (There are no AOC-specific fish and wildlife consumption advisories by New York State (e.g. carp for PCBs)) at two- and five-years post dredging. In other words, the fish consumption advisories in the Buffalo River are no stricter than those for Lake Erie (Table 1). Additional sampling of small mid-trophic level prey fish may also be done in this AOC and in Lake Erie during 2017 or 2018 to assess the removal criteria (Whole body tissue concentrations of contaminants of concern (COCs) in small mid-trophic level prey fish in the AOC are not statistically different than those in Lake Erie) for BUI #5 (Bird or Animal Deformities or Reproductive Problems). If data support the NYSDOH relaxing AOC-specific fish consumption advisories, the report (and data from the 2020 survey) will be used to justify removal of the “Restriction on Fish and Wildlife Consumption” and/or the “Bird or Animal Deformities or Reproductive Problems” BUIs in the Buffalo River AOC. Additional surveys are planned for 2020 to meet monitoring requirements listed in the June 2014 monitoring plan to assess the fish-contaminant BUI at 2 and 5 years post remediation. 
 

Table 1: The current fish-consumption advisories for Lake Erie and for the Buffalo River (and outer harbor) from the first draft of the NYSDEC QAPP: (see attached figure)

 Project
Location by County

Erie County, NY