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Mercury concentrations in water and mercury and selenium concentrations in fish from Brownlee Reservoir and selected sites in the Boise and Snake Rivers, Idaho and Oregon, 2013–15

Open-File Report 2016-1098

Prepared in cooperation with the City of Boise, Idaho
By:
and
https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20161098

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Abstract

Mercury (Hg) analyses were conducted on samples of sport fish and water collected from selected sampling sites in Brownlee Reservoir and the Boise and Snake Rivers to meet National Pollution Discharge and Elimination System (NPDES) permit requirements for the City of Boise, Idaho, between 2013 and 2015. City of Boise personnel collected water samples from six sites between October and November 2013 and 2015, with one site sampled in 2014. Total Hg concentrations in unfiltered water samples ranged from 0.48 to 8.8 nanograms per liter (ng/L), with the highest value in Brownlee Reservoir in 2013. All Hg concentrations in water samples were less than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Hg chronic aquatic life criterion of 12 ng/L.

The USEPA recommended a water-quality criterion of 0.30 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) methylmercury (MeHg) expressed as a fish-tissue residue value (wet-weight MeHg in fish tissue). The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality adopted the USEPA’s fish-tissue criterion and established a reasonable potential to exceed (RPTE) threshold 20 percent lower than the criterion or greater than 0.24 mg/kg Hg based on an average concentration of 10 fish from a receiving waterbody. NPDES permitted discharge to waters with fish having Hg concentrations exceeding 0.24 mg/kg are said to have a reasonable potential to exceed the water-quality criterion and thus are subject to additional permit obligations, such as requirements for increased monitoring and the development of a Hg minimization plan. The Idaho Fish Consumption Advisory Program (IFCAP) issues fish advisories to protect general and sensitive populations of fish consumers and has developed an action level of 0.22 mg/kg Hg in fish tissue. Fish consumption advisories are water body- and species-specific and are used to advise allowable fish consumption from specific water bodies. The geometric mean Hg concentration of 10 fish of a single species collected from a single water body (lake or stream) in Idaho is compared to the action level to determine if a fish consumption advisory should be issued.

The U.S. Geological Survey collected and analyzed individual fillets of mountain whitefish (Prosopium williamsoni), rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu), and channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) for Hg. The 2013 average Hg concentration for small mouth bass (0.32 mg/kg) collected at Brownlee Reservoir and for channel catfish (0.33 mg/kg) collected at the Boise River mouth, exceeded the Idaho water quality criterion (>0.3 mg/kg), the Hg RPTE threshold (>0.24 mg/kg), and the IFCAP action level (>0.22 mg/kg). Average Hg concentrations in fish collected in 2014 or 2015 did not exceed evaluation criteria for any of the species assessed.

Selenium (Se) analysis was conducted on one composite fish tissue sample per site to assess general concentrations and to provide information for future risk assessments. Composite concentrations of Se in fish tissue collected between 2013 and 2015 ranged from 0.07 and 0.49 mg/kg wet weight with the highest concentration collected from smallmouth bass from the Snake River near Murphy, and the lowest from mountain whitefish from the Boise River at Eckert Road.

Suggested Citation

Williams, M.L., and MacCoy, D.E., 2016, Mercury concentrations in water and mercury and selenium concentrations in fish from Brownlee Reservoir and selected sites in the Boise and Snake Rivers, Idaho and Oregon, 2013–15: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2016–1098, 29 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20161098.

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Purpose and Scope
  • Site Locations
  • Targeted Fish Species
  • Field Sampling Procedures
  • Laboratory Methods
  • Results
  • Summary
  • References Cited

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Mercury concentrations in water and mercury and selenium concentrations in fish from Brownlee Reservoir and selected sites in the Boise and Snake Rivers, Idaho and Oregon, 2013–15
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
2016-1098
DOI:
10.3133/ofr20161098
Year Published:
2016
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Idaho Water Science Center
Description:
iv, 38p.
First page:
1
Last page:
29
Country:
United States
State:
Idaho
City:
Boise
Online Only (Y/N):
Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N):
N