John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Assessment of radium‐226 bioavailability and bioaccumulation downstream of decommissioned uranium operations, using the caged oligochaete (Lumbriculus variegatus)

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The present study investigated the integrated effects of several geochemical processes that control radium‐226 (226Ra) mobility in the aquatic environment and bioaccumulation in in situ caged benthic invertebrates. 226Ra bioaccumulation from sediment and water was evaluated using caged oligochaetes (Lumbriculus variegatus) deployed for ten days in six areas downstream of decommissioned uranium operations in Ontario and Saskatchewan, Canada. Measured 226Ra radioactivity levels in the retrieved oligochaetes did not relate directly to water and sediment exposure levels. Other environmental factors that may influence 226Ra bioavailability in sediment and water were investigated. The strongest mitigating influence on 226Ra bioaccumulation factors was sediment barium concentration, with elevated barium (Ba) levels being related to use of barium chloride in effluent treatment for removing 226Ra through barite formation. Observations from the present study also indicated that 226Ra bioavailability was influenced by dissolved organic carbon in water, and by gypsum, carbonate minerals, and iron oxyhydroxides in sediment, suggestive of sorption processes. Environmental factors that appeared to increase 226Ra bioaccumulation were the presence of other group (II) ions in water (likely competing for binding sites on organic carbon molecules), and the presence of K‐feldspars in sediment, which likely act as a dynamic repository for 226Ra where weak ion exchange can occur. In addition to influencing bioavailability to sediment biota, secondary minerals such as gypsum, carbonate minerals, and iron oxyhydroxides likely help mitigate 226Ra release into overlying water following the dissolution of sedimentary barite. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved

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