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Contaminants of emerging concern in the Great Lakes Basin: A report on sediment, water, and fish tissue chemistry collected in 2010-2012

February 28, 2017

Despite being detected at low levels in surface waters and sediments across the United States, contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) in the Great Lakes Basin are not well characterized in terms of spatial and temporal occurrence. Additionally, although the detrimental effects of exposure to CECs on fish and wildlife have been documented for many CECs in laboratory studies, we do not adequately understand the implications of the presence of CECs in the environment. Based on limited studies using current environmentally relevant concentrations of chemicals, however, risks to fish and wildlife are evident. As a result, there is an increasing urgency to address data gaps that are vital to resource management decisions. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey, is leading a Great Lakes Basin-wide evaluation of CECs (CEC Project) with the objectives to (a) characterize the spatial and temporal distribution of CECs; (b) evaluate risks to fish and wildlife resources; and (c) develop tools to aid resource managers in detecting, averting, or minimizing the ecological consequences to fish and wildlife that are exposed to CECs. This report addresses objective (a) of the CEC Project, summarizing sediment and water chemistry data collected from 2010 to 2012 and fish liver tissue chemistry data collected in 2012; characterizes the sampling locations with respect to potential sources of CECs in the landscape; and provides an initial interpretation of the variation in CEC concentrations relative to the identified sources. Data collected during the first three years of our study, which included 12 sampling locations and analysis of 134 chemicals, indicate that contaminants were more frequently detected in sediment compared to water. Chemicals classified as alkyphenols, flavors/ fragrances, hormones, PAHs, and sterols had higher average detection frequencies in sediment compared to water, while the opposite was observed for pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and plasticizers/flame retardants. The St. Louis River and Maumee River sampling locations had the most CEC detections in water and sediment, relative to other sites, as well as the largest number of maximum detected concentrations across all sites in the Basin. No consistent temporal CEC occurrence patterns were observed at locations sampled multiple times each day. Most appearances and increases in chemical concentrations in sediments occurred at sites immediately downstream from wastewater treatment plants and at sites with predominantly developed land use. The location with the most observed appearances and increases was the St. Louis River. Perfluorinated compounds were commonly detected in fish liver tissues with detections in 100% of both benthic and pelagic species. The occurrence of these chemicals in liver tissue of benthic and pelagic species was generally similar. Abstract

Publication Year 2017
Title Contaminants of emerging concern in the Great Lakes Basin: A report on sediment, water, and fish tissue chemistry collected in 2010-2012
Authors Steven J. Choy, Mandy L. Annis, JoAnn Banda, Sarah R. Bowman, Mark E. Brigham, Sarah M. Elliott, Daniel J. Gefell, Mark D. Jankowski, Zachary G. Jorgenson, Kathy Lee, Jeremy N. Moore, William A. Tucker
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Series Title Biological Technical Publication
Series Number BTP-R3017-2013
Index ID 70195815
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Upper Midwest Water Science Center