The Massachusetts Military Reservation (MMR) has been a military base on western Cape Cod since the early 1900s. Contaminated surface water and ground water from the MMR have discharged into several kettle lakes on or near the base. To discover whether the prevalences of tumors and other lesions in brown bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus) in these lakes, particularly Ashumet Pond, were elevated above normal, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), assisted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MADFW), conducted a study in 2002 of brown bullhead in Ashumet Pond and in two reference lakes, Santuit Pond (on Cape Cod) and Great Herring Pond (on the mainland of Massachusetts). Brown bullhead from Great Herring Pond had few external raised lesions (2.8 percent), a low prevalence of liver neoplasms (5 percent), and little genetic damage to their red blood cell nuclei. Brown bullhead from Ashumet Pond had a high prevalence of raised lesions (62.1 percent), which included histopathologically verified papillomas and squamous carcinoma; an elevated incidence of liver neoplasms (16.7 percent); and an elevated level of genetic damage to their red blood cell nuclei. Because red blood cells in fish have a lifespan of about 100 days, these results indicate an ongoing exposure to genotoxins in Ashumet Pond. Brown bullhead from Santuit Pond also had elevated prevalences of raised lesions (48.3 percent) and liver neoplasms (15 percent), although the prevalences of large and multiple lesions were significantly lower than those in fish from Ashumet Pond. These differences may indicate differing causes of pathology in the two lakes. The high prevalence of melanistic lesions on brown bullhead from Ashumet Pond, combined with the tumor pathology and genetic damage, implicates chemical carcinogens as one of the causal factors in that lake.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Prevalence of Tumors in Brown Bullhead from Three Lakes in Southeastern Massachusetts, 2002