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Factors affecting food chain transfer of mercury in the vicinity of the Nyanza site, Sudbury River, Massachusetts

January 1, 2003

The influence of the Nyanza Chemical Waste Dump Superfund Site on the Sudbury River, Massachusetts, was assessed by analysis of sediment, fish prey organisms, and predator fish from four locations in the river system. Whitehall Reservoir is an impoundment upstream of the site, and Reservoir #2 is an impoundment downstream of the site. Cedar Street is a flowing reach upstream of the site, and Sherman Bridge is a flowing reach downstream of the site. Collections of material for analysis were made three times, in May, July, and October. Sediment was analyzed for acid-volatile sulfide (AVS), simultaneously-extracted (SEM) metals (As, Cd, Cr, Hg, Pb, Sb, Zn), and total recoverable Hg. The dominant predatory fish species collected at all sites, largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), was analyzed for the same suite of metals as sediment. Analysis of stomach contents of bass identified small fish (yellow perch Perca flavescens, bluegill Lepomis macrochirus, and pumpkinseed Lepomis gibbosus), crayfish, and dragonfly larvae as the dominant prey organisms. Samples of the prey were collected from the same locations and at the same times as predator fish, and were analyzed for total and methyl mercury. Results of AVS and SEM analyses indicated that sediments were not toxic to aquatic invertebrates at any site. The SEM concentrations of As, Cd, and Cr were significantly higher at Reservoir #2 than at the reference sites, and SEM As and Cd were significantly higher at Sherman Bridge than at Cedar St. Sediment total Hg was elevated only at Reservoir #2. Hg was higher at site-influenced locations in all fish species except brown bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus). Cd was higher in bluegill, black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus), and brown bullhead, and Cr was higher in largemouth bass fillet samples but not in whole-body samples. There were no seasonal differences in sediment or prey organism metals, but some metals in some fish species did vary over time in an inconsistent manner. Predator fish Hg concentration was significantly linearly related to weighted prey organism methyl Hg concentration. Largemouth bass Hg was significantly lower at Reservoir #2 in our study than in previous investigations in 1989 and 1990. High concentrations of inorganic Hg remain in river sediment as a result of operation of the Nyanza site, and fish Hg concentrations in river reaches downstream of the site are elevated compared to upstream reference sites. However, the differences are relatively small and Hg concentrations in largemouth bass from the site-influenced locations are no higher than those from some other, nearby uncontaminated sites. We hypothesize that this results from burial of contaminated sediment with cleaner material, which reduces bioavailability of contaminants and possibly reduces methylation of mercury.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2003
Title Factors affecting food chain transfer of mercury in the vicinity of the Nyanza site, Sudbury River, Massachusetts
DOI 10.1023/A:1024017329382
Authors T.A. Haines, T.W. May, R.T. Finlayson, S.E. Mierzykowski
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Monitoring and Assessment
Index ID 70025852
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse