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, 2013-17

Open-File Report 2018-1122
Prepared in cooperation with the City of Boise, Idaho
By:  and 

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Abstract

Mercury (Hg) analyses were conducted on samples of water and sport fish collected from selected sampling sites in the Boise and Snake Rivers and Brownlee Reservoir, in Idaho and Oregon, to meet National Pollution Discharge and Elimination System permit requirements for the City of Boise, Idaho, from 2013 to 2017. City of Boise personnel collected water samples from six sites in October and November of 2013, 2015 and 2017, and sampled one site in 2014 and 2016. Total Hg concentrations in unfiltered water samples ranged from 0.41 to 8.78 nanograms per liter (ng/L), with the highest value (8.78 ng/L) observed in Brownlee Reservoir in 2013. All samples were less than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency aquatic life criterion of 12 ng/L.

Individual fillets of mountain whitefish (Prosopium williamsoni), rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu), and channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) were collected and analyzed for Hg. The tissue Hg concentrations were compared with regulatory or advisory values for wet-weight methylmercury in fish tissue. In this report, methylmercury concentrations in fish tissue are considered similar to total Hg in fish muscle tissue and are simply referred to as Hg. The 2013 average Hg concentration for smallmouth 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 2017 Hg concentrations in smallmouth bass from Brownlee Reservoir (geometric mean of 0.22 mg/kg) was at the Idaho Fish Consumption Advisory Program action level.

Selenium (Se) interacts with Hg to reduce the health risks of Hg, such that tissues with Se-to-Hg molar ratios greater than 1 are considered to present less potential health risks for a given Hg concentration than are tissues with lower Se-to-Hg ratios. One composite fish tissue sample per site was analyzed for Se. Selenium-to-Hg molar ratios in the fish tissue samples ranged from 0.99 to 24.7.

Suggested Citation

MacCoy, D.E., and Mebane, C.A., 2018, 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, 2013-17: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2018-1122, 37 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20181122.

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, 2013-17
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2018-1122
DOI 10.3133/ofr20181122
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Idaho Water Science Center
Description iv, 37 p.
Country United States
State Idaho, Oregon
Other Geospatial Boise River, Brownlee Reservoir, Snake River
Online Only (Y/N) Y