Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Contaminant trends in sport fish from Lake Roosevelt and the upper Columbia River, Washington, 1994-1998

January 1, 2000

Fish from Lake Roosevelt were first reported to contain elevated concentrations of contaminants in the early 1980?s, with mercury, dioxins and furans, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) identified as being of most concern to human health. Over the following years there were a series of studies by United States and Canadian agencies addressing contaminants in fish from both a human and environmental perspective. In the early 1990?s, industrial discharges to the Columbia River above the international boundary decreased. The dominant changes in industrial practices included a reduction in slag and effluent discharges from a lead-zinc smelter, and a reduction in dioxins and furans due to processing changes at a Canadian pulp mill. It is believed that these two alterations in industrial practices may have greatly reduced the loading of selected contaminants to the Columbia River system. In response to these recent changes, the U.S. Geological Survey initiated this present study for the purpose of determining the present concentrations of mercury, dioxins and furans, and PCBs in fish, and, if possible, to determine if concentrations have changed since the 1994 studies. All contaminant analysis was done on fish fillets in order to address human health concerns. Our study concluded that the concentrations of contaminants in fish that were identified as a potential threat to human health have either not changed since the 1994 studies, or have decreased. PCBs, as determined by Aroclor 1254, do not appear to have changed between 1994 and 1998; sources of PCBs are presently unknown. In contrast, dioxins and furans, as indicated by 2,3,7,8-TCDF, did show a significant decrease in rainbow trout fillets from 1994 to 1998. However, there was no apparent change in the average 2,3,7,8-TCDF concentrations in mountain whitefish, with the reason uncertain at this time. Average concentrations of 2,3,7,8-TCDF were higher in mountain whitefish than in rainbow trout. Toxicity equivalence concentrations (TEC) are determined by summing the relative toxicity of individual congeners of dioxins, furans, and toxic ?dioxin-like? PCB congeners in individual fish. Rainbow trout from the upper reach have higher TECs than rainbow trout from the lower reach, with trout from the upper reach having a higher percentage of the toxicity from toxic ?dioxin-like? PCBs than dioxin and furan compounds. In relation to mercury, the concentrations of total mercury in walleye have significantly decreased by about 50 percent from 1994 to 1998.

Publication Year 2000
Title Contaminant trends in sport fish from Lake Roosevelt and the upper Columbia River, Washington, 1994-1998
DOI 10.3133/wri004024
Authors Mark D. Munn
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series Number 2000-4024
Index ID wri004024
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse