Date: 03 Feb 2010

Uranium Exposure to the Tropical Duckweed Lemna aequinoctialis and Pulmonate Snail Amerianna cumingi: Fate and Toxicity

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Abstract

The discharge of catchment-management water from the Ranger uranium (U) mine into Magela Creek upstream of the Ramsar-listed Magela Floodplain in Kakadu National Park is an important part of the mine’s water-management system. Because U is one of the primary toxicants associated with this water, a receiving-water trigger value (TV), based on chronic toxicity data from five local native species, was derived for U. To strengthen the data set underpinning the derivation of the TV, the chronic toxicity of U to two additional tropical freshwater species, duckweed Lemna aequinoctialis (96-hour growth rate), and pulmonate gastropod, Amerianna cumingi (96-hour reproduction), was determined. The fate of U within the test systems was an important component of the study because analysis of U concentrations during the snail tests indicated that a substantial proportion of U (approximately 25%) was being lost from the test solutions when integrated during the entire test duration. Analysis of the snails and their food for U indicated that only a small proportion that was lost from solution was being taken up by the snails. Therefore, the majority of U that was lost was considered unavailable to the snails, and thus the exposure concentrations used to calculate the toxicity estimates were adjusted downward. Integrating the loss of U from the L. aequinoctialis test solutions over time showed that only a small proportion (6% to 13%) was lost during the test: Of that, almost half (2–5%) was taken up by the plants (constituting exposure). Uranium was only moderately toxic to L. aequinoctialis, with no observed–effect concentrations, lowest observed–effect concentrations, and inhibition concentrations causing 10% and 50% effects (IC10 and IC50) values of 226, 404, 207, and 1435 μg/l, respectively. A. cumingi was found to be more sensitive to U than L. aequinoctialis, with NOEC, LOEC, IC10, and IC50 values of 60, 61, 15, and 278 μg/l, respectively. The data for these two additional species will be used to revise the current TV for U in Magela Creek.