A reconnaissance investigation of selenium and total mercury in fish in Wolford Mountain Reservoir, Colorado, was conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey in June 2005, in cooperation with the Colorado River Water Conservation District. A total of 32 game and nongame fish were collected from three sites in the reservoir for analysis of selenium and total mercury. Five species of fish were sampled: white sucker (Catostomus commersonii, n=17), brown trout (Salmo trutta, n=5), rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss, n=5), cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii, n=3), and splake (Salvelinus fontinalis x Salvelinus namaycush, n=2). Selenium concentrations ranged from 1.05 to 11.7 micrograms per gram (equivalent to parts per million or ppm) dry weight, whole body. Almost 22 percent (7 of 32) of fish samples had selenium concentrations greater than 7.91 micrograms per gram dry weight, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2004 draft freshwater chronic criterion for selenium in whole-body fish tissue. Total mercury concentrations in muscle plug samples ranged from 0.012 to 0.320 microgram per gram wet weight. Concentrations of mercury in muscle plug samples are comparable to concentrations in fillet samples, and only one fish sample, a nongame white sucker, had a total mercury concentration greater than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency water-quality criterion for the protection of human health of 0.3 microgram per gram wet weight in fillets. Converting muscle plug or fillet concentrations of mercury to whole-body concentrations, four fish samples (12.5 percent) had estimated whole-body total mercury concentrations greater than 0.1 microgram per gram wet weight concentration in whole-body fish tissue, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service criterion for protection of fish-eating birds and wildlife.
Water-quality data for dissolved selenium and total mercury in two tributaries and three reservoir sites were compiled and compared. Dissolved concentrations of selenium in one tributary and one reservoir site (prior to 1998) were greater than 4.6 micrograms per liter, the State of Colorado chronic water-quality standard for dissolved selenium for protection of aquatic life. Total mercury concentrations in most water samples from two tributaries and three reservoir sites were less than or equal to 0.01 microgram per liter, the State of Colorado chronic water-quality standard for total mercury for protection of aquatic life. Selenium and mercury in fish in Wolford Mountain Reservoir most likely are not directly related to selenium and mercury concentrations in reservoir water, as most selenium and mercury in fish tissue results from the presence of selenium and mercury in the diet rather than through gill uptake from water.
Results of this reconnaissance investigation of selenium and total mercury in fish in Wolford Mountain Reservoir indicate that concentrations of selenium were elevated in some fish. Most total mercury concentrations in fish were less than criteria levels.
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USGS Numbered Series
Selenium and Mercury Concentrations in Fish, Wolford Mountain Reservoir, Colorado, 2005