To assess the toxicity of winter-time atmospheric deposition in the oil sands mining area of Northern Alberta, embryo-larval fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) were exposed to snowmelt samples. Snow was collected in 2011–2014 near (<7km) oil sands open pit mining operations in the Athabasca River watershed and at sites far from (>25km) oil sands mining. Snow was shipped frozen back to the laboratory, melted, and amended with essential ions prior to testing. Fertilized fathead minnow eggs were exposed (<24h post-fertilization to 7–16days post-hatch) to a range of 25%–100% snowmelt. Snow samples far from (25–277km away) surface mining operations and upgrading facilities did not affect larval fathead minnow survival at 100%. Snow samples from sites near surface mining and refining activities (<7km) showed reduced larval minnow survival. There was some variability in the potencies of snow year-to-year from 2011 to 2014, and there were increases in deformities in minnows exposed to snow from 1 site on the Steepbank River. Although exposure to snowmelt from sites near oil sands surface mining operations caused effects in larval fish, spring melt water from these same sites in late March–May of 2010, 2013 and 2014 showed no effects on larval survival when tested at 100%. Snow was analyzed for metals, total naphthenic acid concentrations, parent PAHs and alkylated PAHs. Naphthenic acid concentrations in snow were below those known to affect fish larvae. Concentrations of metals in ion-amended snow were below published water quality guideline concentrations. Compared to other sites, the snowmelt samples collected close to mining and upgrading activities had higher concentrations of PAHs and alkylated PAHs associated with airborne deposition of fugitive dusts from mining and coke piles, and in aerosols and particles from stack emissions.
Science of the Total Environment – Elsevier
Published: Jun 1, 2018
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