Long-term changes in mercury concentrations in fish from the middle Savannah River

M. H. Paller, James W. Littrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Scopus citations

Abstract

Total mercury levels were measured in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), "sunfish" (Lepomis spp.), and "catfish" (primarily Ameiurus spp. and Ictalurus punctatus) from 1971 to 2004 in the middle Savannah River (river km 191 to 302), which drains the coastal plain of the southeastern U.S. Total mercury concentrations were higher in largemouth bass (overall mean of 0.55 mg/kg from 1971 to 2004), a piscivorous (trophic level 4) species than in the other taxa (means of 0.22-0.26 mg/kg), but temporal trends were generally similar among taxa. Mercury levels were highest in 1971 but declined over the next 10 years due to the mitigation of point source industrial pollution. Mercury levels in fish began to increase in the 1980s as a likely consequence of mercury inputs from tributaries and associated wetlands where mercury concentrations were significantly elevated in water and fish. Mercury levels in Savannah River fish decreased sharply in 2001-2003 coincident with a severe drought in the Savannah River basin, but returned to previous levels in 2004 with the resumption of normal precipitation. Regression models showed that mercury levels in fish changed significantly over time and were affected by river discharge. Mercury levels in Savannah River fish were only slightly lower in 2004 (0.3 to 0.8 mg/kg) than in 1971 (0.4 to 1.0 mg/kg) despite temporal changes during the intervening years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-382
Number of pages8
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume382
Issue number2-3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2007

Keywords

  • Fish
  • Long-term data
  • Long-term monitoring
  • Mercury
  • Savannah River
  • Temporal trends

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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