Levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and dibenzothiophenes in wetland sediments and aquatic insects in the oil sands area of Northeastern Alberta, Canada
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- Wayland, M., Headley, J.V., Peru, K.M. et al. Environ Monit Assess (2008) 136: 167. doi:10.1007/s10661-007-9673-7
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An immense volume of tailings and tailings water is accumulating in tailings ponds located on mine leases in the oil sands area of Alberta, Canada. Oil sands mining companies have proposed to use tailings- and tailings water-amended lakes and wetlands as part of their mine remediation plans. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are substances of concern in oil sands tailings and tailings water. In this study, we determined concentrations of PAHs in sediments, insect larvae and adult insects collected in or adjacent to three groups of wetlands: experimental wetlands to which tailings or tailings water had been purposely added, oil sands wetlands that were located on the mine leases but which had not been experimentally manipulated and reference wetlands located near the mine leases. Alkylated PAHs dominated the PAH profile in all types of samples in the three categories of wetlands. Median and maximum PAH concentrations, especially alkylated PAH concentrations, tended to be higher in sediments and insect larvae in experimental wetlands than in the other types of wetlands. Such was not the case for adult insects, which contained higher than expected levels of PAHs in the three types of ponds. Overlap in PAH concentrations in larvae among pond types suggests that any increase in PAH levels resulting from the addition of tailings and tailings water to wetlands would be modest. Biota-sediment accumulation factors were higher for alkylated PAHs than for their parent counterparts and were lower in experimental wetlands than in oil sands and reference wetlands. Research is needed to examine factors that affect the bioavailability of PAHs in oil sands tailings- or tailings water-amended wetlands.