Heavy metals in seaducks and mussels from misty fjords national monument in Southeast Alaska
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Quartz Hill, in Misty Fjords National Monument near Ketchikan, Alaska, is the site of a proposed molybdenum-producing mine. To provide baseline data for use in post-development comparisons, we analyzed tissues of Barrow's goldeneyes (Bucephala islandica), common mergansers (Mergus merganser), and blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) for seven heavy metals that could potentially be released into the environment as a result of mining operations. Specimens were collected in 1980, 1981, and 1982 from two fjords likely to be used for discharge of tailings from the proposed mine and from two control fjords. Concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, copper, chromium, molybdenum, lead, and zinc were measured in soft tissues of mussels and in kidney, liver, and muscle of birds. The highest mean concentrations of metals found in bird tissues were 55.7 ppm dry weight cadmium in kidneys and 154 ppm dry weight zinc in livers of Barrow's goldeneyes. Concentrations of several metals in blue mussels differed among seasons and locations, but the most significant finding in mussels was a maximum mean cadmium concentration of 9.6 ppm dry weight, a level higher than normally found in undisturbed areas. With the exception of 104 ppm dry weight cadmium in the kidney of one common merganser and 12.7 ppm dry weight lead in the kidney of another, concentrations of other metals in seaduck and mussel tissues were low, consistent with what would be expected for a pre-development environment. Molybdenum was found in low concentrations (<10 ppm dry weight) in all avian kidney samples and most liver samples, but was not detected in blue mussels.
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