Contaminants in Drainage Water and Avian Risk Thresholds

  • Joseph P. Skorupa
  • Harry M. Ohlendorf

Abstract

The toxicity of selenium to avian embryos is one of the most restrictive constraints on options for managing agricultural drainage water. Although selenium in eggs strongly predicts embryotoxicity, waterborne selenium (on a total recoverable basis) often is an unreliable predictor of average realized selenium in eggs. For the San Joaquin Valley, however, the algebraically derived equation Log (Mean Egg Se) = 3.66 + 0.57 Log (Waterborne Se) is a good predictor of the maximum potential for selenium bioaccumulation in avian eggs. Using eared grebes (Podiceps nigricollis) as an indicator species for bioaccumulation potential, the average absolute difference between observed and predicted mean selenium in eggs was only 6 percent for test cases at waterborne concentrations of 2.8, 15, 126, 176 p/b (total recoverable) selenium. Various estimates of biologically important thresholds indicate that it would be prudent to consider drainage water with 3 to 20 p/b selenium as peripherally hazardous to aquatic birds (i.e., hazardous to some species under some environmental conditions) and drainage water with more than 20 p/b selenium as widely hazardous to aquatic birds (i.e., hazardous to most species under most environmental conditions). To prevent most avian toxicity, a reasonable goal for chemical or biological decontamination technologies would be concentrations of waterborne selenium < 10 p/b. Likewise, to minimize avian contamination, a reasonable goal of purity would be waterborne selenium < 2.3 p/b. When these water standards are technically or financially unattainable, actions to significantly reduce avian use of contaminated drainage water are necessary.

Keywords

Toxicity Mercury Cadmium Arsenic Boron 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph P. Skorupa
    • 1
  • Harry M. Ohlendorf
    • 2
  1. 1.U.S. Fish and Wildlife ServiceUSA
  2. 2.CH2M HILLSacramentoUSA

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