John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Selenium bioaccumulation in fish exposed to coal ash at the Tennessee Valley Authority Kingston spill site

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In December 2008, 4.1 million m3 of coal ash were released into the Emory and Clinch Rivers by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Kingston Fossil Plant. Coal ash contains several contaminants, including the bioaccumulative metalloid selenium (Se). Because Se is predominantly accumulated in aquatic organisms through dietary, rather than aqueous exposure, tissue‐based toxicity thresholds for Se are currently being considered. The proposed threshold concentrations range between 4‐9 □g/g Se (dry wt.) in whole body fish, with a proposed fillet threshold of 11.8 □g/g. In the present study we examined the spatial and temporal trends in Se bioaccumulation and examined the relationship between the Se content in fillets and in whole bodies of fish collected around the Kingston spill site to determine whether Se bioaccumulation was a significant concern at the ash spill site. While Se concentrations in fish (whole bodies and fillets) were elevated at sampling locations affected by the Kingston ash spill relative to reference locations, concentrations do not appear to be above risk thresholds and have not been increasing over the five year period since the spill. Our results are not only relevant to guiding the human health and ecological risk assessments at the Kingston ash spill site, but because of current national discussions on appropriate guidelines for Se in fish as well for the disposal of coal combustion wastes, our results are also relevant to the general understanding of Se bioaccumulation in contaminated water bodies. Environ Toxicol Chem © 2014 SETAC

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