Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

An evaluation of selenium concentrations in water, sediment, invertebrates, and fish from the Republican River Basin: 1997-1999

January 1, 2001

The Republican River Basin of Colorado,Nebraska, and Kansas lies in a valley which contains PierreShale as part of its geological substrata. Selenium is anindigenous constituent in the shale and is readily leached intosurrounding groundwater. The Basin is heavily irrigated throughthe pumping of groundwater, some of which is selenium-contaminated, onto fields in agricultural production. Water,sediment, benthic invertebrates, and/or fish were collected from46 sites in the Basin and were analyzed for selenium to determinethe potential for food-chain bioaccumulation, dietary toxicity,and reproductive effects of selenium in biota. Resultingselenium concentrations were compared to published guidelines orbiological effects thresholds. Water from 38% of the sites (n = 18) contained selenium concentrations exceeding 5 μg L-1, which is reported to be a high hazard for selenium accumulation into the planktonic food chain. An additional 12 sites (26% of the sites) contained selenium in water between 3–5 μg L-1, constituting a moderate hazard. Selenium concentrations in sedimentindicated little to no hazard for selenium accumulation fromsediments into the benthic food chain. Ninety-five percent ofbenthic invertebrates collected exhibited selenium concentrationsexceeding 3 μg g-1, a level reported as potentially lethal to fish and birds that consume them. Seventy-five percent of fish collected in 1997, 90% in 1998, and 64% in 1999 exceeded 4 μg g-1selenium, indicating a high potential for toxicity andreproductive effects. However, examination of weight profilesof various species of collected individual fish suggestedsuccessful recruitment in spite of selenium concentrations thatexceeded published biological effects thresholds for health andreproductive success. This finding suggested that universalapplication of published guidelines for selenium may beinappropriate or at least may need refinement for systems similarto the Republican River Basin. Additional research is needed todetermine the true impact of selenium on fish and wildliferesources in the Basin.

Publication Year 2001
Title An evaluation of selenium concentrations in water, sediment, invertebrates, and fish from the Republican River Basin: 1997-1999
DOI 10.1023/A:1012041003657
Authors T.W. May, M.J. Walther, J. D. Petty, J.F. Fairchild, J. Lucero, M. Delvaux, J. Manring, M. Armbruster, D. Hartman
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Monitoring and Assessment
Index ID 70023025
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Columbia Environmental Research Center