As part of the Northern Rockies Intermontane Basins study of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program, data collected between 1974 and 1996 were compiled to describe contaminants in tissue of riverine species. Tissue-contaminant data from 11 monitoring programs and studies representing 28 sites in the study area were summarized. Tissue-contaminant data for most streams generally were lacking. Many studies have focused on and around mining-affected areas on the Clark Fork and Coeur d'Alene Rivers and their major tributaries. DDT and PCBs and their metabolites and congeners were the synthetic organic contaminants most commonly detected in fish tissue. Fish collected from the Spokane River in Washington contained elevated concentrations of PCB arochlors, some of which exceeded guidelines for the protection of human health and predatory wildlife. Tissue samples of fish from the Flathead River watershed contained higher-than-expected concentrations of PCBs, which might have resulted from atmospheric transport. Trace element concentrations in fish and macroinvertebrates collected in and around mining areas were elevated compared with background concentrations. Some cadmium, copper, lead, and mercury concentrations in fish tissue were elevated compared with results from other studies, and some exceeded guidelines. Macroinvertebrates from the Coeur d'Alene River contained higher concentrations of cadmium, lead, and zinc than did macroinvertebrates from other river systems in mining-affected areas. A few sportfish fillet samples, most from the Spokane River in Washington, were collected to assess human health risk. Concentrations of PCBs in these fillets exceeded screening values for the protection of human health. At present, there is no coordinated, long-term fish tissue monitoring program for rivers in the study area, even though contaminants are present in fish at levels considered a threat to human health. Development of a coordinated, centralized national data base for contaminants in fish tissue is needed. The National Water-Quality Assessment Program can provide a framework for other agencies to evaluate tissue contaminants in the Northern Rockies Intermontane Basins study area. As of 1996, there are no fish consumption advisories or fishing restrictions as a result of elevated contaminants on any rivers within the study area.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Summary of information on synthetic organic compounds and trace elements in tissue of aquatic biota, Clark Fork-Pend Oreille and Spokane River basins, Montana, Idaho, and Washington, 1974-96
Water-Resources Investigations Report
U.S. Geological Survey
Idaho Water Science Center
vi, 55 p.
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Northern Rockies Intermontane Basins;Flathead Indian Reservation;Spokane Indian Reservation