Skip to main content

Mercury evolution (1978–1988) in fishes of the La Grande hydroelectric complex, Quebec, Canada

Abstract

From 1978 to 1988, the evolution of the Hg content of fish has been monitored in the areas affected by the La Grande hydroelectric complex. Four fish species were considered: two non piscivorous, lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) and longnose sucker (Catostomus catostomus), and two piscivorous, northern pike (Esox lucius) and walleye (Stizostedion vitreum). The evolution of Hg concentrations in time depends upon fish species and type of reservoirs. Non piscivorous fish react more rapidly than piscivorous. Five years after filling, their Hg level had increased by a factor of four in reservoirs with rapid filling and short renewal rate; levels decreased thereafter. In the La Grande 2 reservoir, the Hg concentration of 400 mm lake whitefish went from 0.16 mg kg−1 before impoundment to 0.57 mg kg−1 5 yr after filling, and then started to decrease. For 700 mm northern pike, the Hg level went from 0.61 mg kg−1 to 2.99 mg kg−1 and was still increasing 9 yr after initial filling. In reservoirs where filling spans over a few years or with long renewal rate, their Hg content evolves more slowly. In river sections located downstream from reservoirs, the Hg content of non piscivorous species was significantly higher than in reservoirs. In 1988, whitefish exhibited values of 1.22 mg kg−1 in the tailwater of the La Grande 2 power station, compared to 0.48 mg kg−1 in the forebay. This phenomenon could be related to the drift of food organisms from the upstream reservoir. A study of several reservoirs of the Canadian Shield, which were created between 6 and 67 yr ago suggests that it could take between 20 and 30 yr before Hg concentration in fish return to preimpoundment levels.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Abernathy, A.R. and Cumbie, P.M.: 1977, Bull. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 17, 595.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Alfthan, G., Järvinen, O., Pikkarainen, J. and Verta, M.: 1983, Nordic Council Arct. Med. Res. Rep. 35, 77.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Bodaly, R.A. and Hecky, R.E.: 1979, ‘Post-impoundment increases in fish mercury levels in the Southern Indian Lake reservoir, Manitoba’, Can. Fish. Mar. Serv. MS Rep. 1531.

  4. Bodaly, R.A., Hecky, R.E. and Fudge, J.P.: 1984, Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 41, 682.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Brouard, D., Demers, C. Lalumière, R., Schetagne, R. and Verdon, R.: 1990, ‘Summary report. Evolution of mercury levels in fish of the La Grande hydroelectric complex, Québec (1978–1989)‘ Joint report. Vice-présidence Environnement, Hydro-Québec and Groupe Environnement Shooner inc., 97 pages.

  6. Canada-Manitoba: 1987, ‘Summary report. Canada-Manitoba Agreement on the study and monitoring of mercury in the Churchill River diversion’. Joint report by Environment Canada and Environment and Workplace Safety and Health of Manitoba, 75 p.

  7. Cox, J.A., Carnahan, J., DiNunzio, J., McCoy, J. and Meister, J.: 1979, Bull. Environm. Contam. Toxicol. 23, 779.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Furutani, A. and Rudd, J.W.M.: 1980, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 40, 770.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Göthberg, A.: 1983, Ambio 12, 259.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Hakanson, L., Nilsson, A. and Andersson, T.: 1988, Environ. Pollut. 49, 145.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Hecky, R.E., Bodaly, R.A., Strange, N.E., Ramsey, D.J., Anema, C. and Fudge, R.J.P.: 1987, ‘Mercury bioaccumulation in yellow perch in limnocorrals simulating the effect of reservoir formation’, Can. Data Rep. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 628.

  12. Hecky, R.E., Bodaly, R.A., Ramsey, D.J., Ramlal, P.S. and Strange, N.E.: 1987, ‘Evolution of limnological conditions, microbial methylation of mercury and mercury concentrations in fish in reservoirs of Northern Manitoba’, Canada-Manitoba: 1987, Summary report. Canada-Manitoba Agreement on the study and monitoring of mercury in the Churchill River diversion. Joint report by Environment Canada and Environment and Workplace Safety and Health of Manitoba, Appendix 9.

  13. Jackson, T.A.: 1987, ‘Methylation, demethylation, and bio-accumulation of mercury in lakes and reservoirs of Northern Manitoba, with particular reference to effects of environmental changes caused by the Churchill-Nelson River diversion’, Can. Data Rep. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 628.

  14. Jones, M.L., Cunningham, G.L., Marmorek, D.R., Stokes, P.M., Wren, R. and Degraaf, D.: 1986, ‘Mercury release in hydroelectric reservoirs’, Report for the Canadian Electrical Association, 156 p.

  15. Kinnunen, K.: 1985, ‘The development of the state of Lokka and Porttipahta reservoirs and their lower rivers up to 1984’', original title in Finnish: ‘Lokkn ja porttipahan tekoaltaiden sekä niiden alapuolisten jokien tilan kehittyminen vuoteen 1984 saakka’. Research Institute, National Board of Waters, Finland.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Lindqvist, O., Jernelöv, A., Johansson, K. and Rodhe,H.: 1984, ‘Mercury in the Swedish environment. Global and local sources’, National Swedish Environment Protection Board, Report No 1816, 105 p.

  17. Lodenius, M., Seppänen, A. and Herranen M.: 1983, Water, Air and Soil Pollut 19, 237.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Mannio, J., Verta, M., Kortelainen, P. and Rekolainen S.: 1986, ‘The effect of water quality on the mercury concentration of northern pike (Esox lucius, L.) in Finnish forests lakes and reservoirs’. Publications of the Water Research Institute, National Board of Waters, Finland, No 65, 32.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Ramlal, P.S., Anema, C., Furutani, A., Hecky, R.E. and Rudd, J.W.M.: 1987, ‘Mercury methylation studies at Southern Indian Lake, Manitoba: 1981–1983’, Can. Tech. Rep. Fish. Aquat, Sci.,1490.

  20. Ramsey, D.J.: 1990, ‘Experimental studies of mercury dynamics in the Churchill River diversion, Manitoba’, CSEB, 1990. — Managing the effects of hydroelectric developments; Proceeding of a Symposium, April 6–7 1989, Montréal, Québec; edited by Delisle, C.E. and Bouchard, M. A.; Vol 9, Collection Environnement et Géologie, Université de Montréal, 650 p.

  21. Schetagne, R.: 1985, ‘The use of multivariate methods in the interpretation of water quality monitoring data of a large northern reservoir’, in Developments in water science 27: Statistical aspects of water quality monitoring, Proceedings of the Workshop held at the Canadian Centre for Inland Waters, October 7–10, 1985, El-Shaarawi and Kwiatkowski (ed.), Elsevier publ.

  22. Schetagne, R.: 1990, ‘Suivi de la qualité de l'eau, du phytoplancton, du zooplancton et du benthos au complexe La Grande, territoire de la Baie James’, CSEB, 1990. — Managing the effects of hydroelectric developments; Proceeding of a Symposium, April 6–7 1989, Montréal, Québec; edited by Delisle, C.E. and Bouchard, M. A.; Vol 9, Collection Environnement et Géologie, Université de Montréal, 650 p.

  23. Verta, M.: 1990, Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci., 47, 1888.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. Verta, M., Rekolainen, S., Mannio, J. and Surma-Aho, K.: 1986a, ‘The origin and level of mercury in Finnish forest lakes’, Publications of the Water Research Institute, National Board of Waters, Finland, No 65, 21.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Verta, M., Rekolainen, S. and Kinnunen, K.: 1986b, ‘Causes of increased fish mercury levels in Finnish reservoirs’, Publications of the Water Research Institute, National Board of Waters, Finland, No 65, 44.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Verdon, R., Brouard, D., Demers, C. et al. Mercury evolution (1978–1988) in fishes of the La Grande hydroelectric complex, Quebec, Canada. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution 56, 405–417 (1991). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00342287

Download citation

Keywords

  • Northern Pike
  • Lake Whitefish
  • Piscivorous Species
  • Water Research Institute
  • Hydroelectric Development