A survey of baseline levels of contaminants in aquatic biota of the AOSERP study area

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  • Analyses are given for up to 12 metals and 4 pesticides with PCBs, of aquatic environment from 15 study sites along or near the Athabasca River from Fort McMurray north to the confluence of the Peace and Slave Rivers. There were 560 fish (8 species), 15 water, 14 sediment and a few phyto-plankton and invertebrate samples. Methods of analysis (by AAS and GLC) are outlined, and standard deviations and detection limits given. In a few cases, where suspected, elevated concentrations of metals and pesticides are discussed. In fish, most As, Cr, Ni, V, Pb and Cd concentrations were close to detection limits (0.01, 0.1, 0.1, 0.04, 0.05, 0.01, respectively). Cu, Hg, Se and Zn were not unusually high (means of 0.94, 0.15, 0.37, and 16.9 µg/g respectively); metal concentrations did not correlate well with body weight. Pesticides were mostly below detection limits, although yellow walleye and longnose sucker showed a few µg/g of methoxychlor, chlordane and dieldrin. In water, As, Cr and Cd were mostly <1, <6 and <0.1 µg/l respectively, below previously reported values for the Athabasca River at Fort McMurray. Cu (excepting 3 stations with 12 to 97 µg/l) averaged 2 µg/l. Fe, mostly particulate, and averaging 2500 µg/l was higher than reported for many US waters, but in line with previous analyses for the area. Mn was also relatively high at 43 µg/l; mean; it was particulate and also related to iron content. Ni (except for 2 stations) averaged 3.4 µg/l, and V (one station excepted) was 3.1 µg/l, mean. Vanadium was below the mean of 6 µg/l found for many samples of drinking water in the US. Zn in 12 stations averaged 23 µg/l, in line with earlier analyses from the area. Some values may have been due to contamination. At the time samples were analyzed, phenol was below the detection limit but could have decomposed on storage. Sediments were quite high in Fe content (5750 to 22400 µg/g) and in Mn (110 to over 300 µg/g). There were positive correlations between iron content and in descending order, V, Zn, Mn, Se, As, Cu, Cr, with a weaker one for Cd. No metal concentrations seemed in any way unusual. Mercury contents were low. Ni and V content were positively correlated.

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