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Detailed study of selenium in soil, water, bottom sediment, and biota in the Sun River Irrigation Project, Freezout Lake Wildlife Management Area, and Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge, west-central Montana, 1990-92

December 1, 1996

Selenium and other constituents are adversely affecting water quality and creating a potential hazard to wildlife in several areas of the Sun River Irrigation Project, Freezout Lake Wildlife Management Area, and Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge in west-central Montana. Selenium derived from Cretaceous shale and Tertiary and Quaternary deposits containing shale detritus is transported in the oxic shallow ground-water systems. At Freezout Lake Wildlife Management Area, drainage from irrigated glacial deposits is the primary source of selenium; drainage from non-irrigated farmland is a significant source locally. Benton Lake generally receives more selenium from natural runoff from its non-irrigated basin than from the trans-basin diversion of irrigation return flow. Selenium has accumulated in aquatic plants and invertebrates, fish, and water birds, particularly in wetlands that receive the largest selenium loads. Although selenium residues in biological tissue from some wetland units exceeded biological risk levels, water-bird reproduction generally has not been impaired. The highest selenium residues in biota commonly occurred in samples from Priest Butte Lakes, which also had the highest selenium concentration in wetland water. Selenium concentrations in all invertebrate samples from Priest Butte Lakes and the south end of Freezeout Lake exceeded the critical dietary threshold for water birds. Selenium delivered to wetlands accumulates in bottom sediment, predominantly in near-shore areas. Potential impacts to water quality, and presumably biota, may be greatest near the mouths of inflows. Most selenium delivered to wetlands will continue to accumulate in bottom sediment and biota.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1996
Title Detailed study of selenium in soil, water, bottom sediment, and biota in the Sun River Irrigation Project, Freezout Lake Wildlife Management Area, and Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge, west-central Montana, 1990-92
DOI 10.3133/wri954170
Authors D.A. Nimick, J. H. Lambing, D.U. Palawski, J.C. Malloy
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series Number 95-4170
Index ID wri954170
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization