, Volume 65, Issue 4, pp 765-778
Date: 11 Sep 2013

Spatial Variability of Metal Bioaccumulation in Estuarine Killifish (Fundulus heteroclitus) at the Callahan Mine Superfund Site, Brooksville, ME

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Abstract

The former Callahan Mine Site in Brooksville, ME, is an open-pit, hardrock mine site in an intertidal system, thus providing a unique opportunity to evaluate how metal-enriched sediments and overlying water impact estuarine food webs. Copper, zinc, cadmium, and lead concentrations in sediment, whole water, and Atlantic killifish (Fundulus heteroclitus) were evaluated at sites in Goose Pond (GP; Callahan Mine Site) and at reference sites. The metal concentrations of sediment, water, and fish were spatially distinct and significantly greater at the mine site than in the reference estuary. Sediment concentrations were particularly elevated and were above probable effects levels for all four metals adjacent to the tailings pile. Even in this well-mixed system, water metal concentrations were significantly elevated adjacent to the tailings pile, and concentrations of Cu and Zn were above ambient water-quality criteria for chronic marine exposure. Neither organic matter in the sediment nor salinity or pH of the water explained the metal concentrations. Adjacent to the tailings pile, killifish metal body burdens were elevated and were significantly related to both sediment and aqueous concentrations. In conclusion, (1) the contaminated sediment and seepage from the tailings impoundment and waste rock pile no. 3 create a continual flux of metals into the water column, (2) the metals are bioavailable and bioconcentrating as evident in the killifish tissue concentrations, and (3) Callahan Mine is directly affecting metal bioaccumulation in fauna residing in the GP estuary and, potentially, in Penobscot Bay by the way of “trophic nekton relay.”