British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposia

Update on the status of selenium investigations in the Elk River Valley, B.C. Chapman, Peter M. 2009

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UPDATE ON THE STATUS OF SELENIUM INVESTIGATIONS IN THE ELK RIVER VALLEY, B.C.   Peter M. Chapman1 Roger Berdusco2 Ron Jones2  1Golder Associates 195 Pemberton Avenue North Vancouver, BC V7P 2R4 Tel 604-904-4005  2Elk Valley Coal Corporation #1000 205 - 9th Avenue SE Calgary, AB T2G 0R4  ABSTRACT  Four categories of investigations have been and are being conducted in the Elk River Valley, B.C. related to Se released from coal mining:  effects; monitoring; other studies; and management. Studies conducted to date have determined an absence of impacts to fish (cutthroat trout) and water birds (American dipper and spotted sandpiper) living in the predominantly lotic (flowing water) areas of the Elk River Valley.  In the less common but more at risk lentic (still water) areas of the Valley, an absence of Se-related impacts has been determined for red-winged blackbirds, eight species of waterfowl, longnose sucker and Columbia spotted frog.  An effects study on cutthroat trout living in a lentic environment partially confirmed the findings of the previous lotic study with this same species, specifically that cutthroat trout have a relatively high tolerance to Se.  However, the two cutthroat trout effects studies also resulted in some contradictory findings. There are no indications of impacts from Se to cutthroat trout living in lotic or lentic areas of the Elk River Valley; however, a further effects study will be conducted with this species to resolve the contradictions.  Monitoring studies indicate increasing concentrations of Se in waters downstream of the coal mines but no corresponding increase in fish muscle Se concentrations. Biogeochemical studies are being conducted into Se release and cycling as part of ongoing management activities.  A management decision framework has been developed that provides a means to integrate present and future information to effectively manage Se releases from the coal mines to ensure environmental protection.  INTRODUCTION  Coal strata in the Elk River Valley contain the essential element, selenium (Se).  Humans and other life on this planet need it for their continued health. But, like all things, Se in excess can be harmful.  Se can be particularly harmful to egg-laying animals that feed in or from water bodies containing elevated levels of Se: fish, water birds and possibly amphibians.  Inorganic Se released naturally by weathering of Se-containing rocks or whose natural release is accelerated by mining, can be changed by bacteria in lakes, ponds, marshes or wetlands into an organic form that can be accumulated by adults of these egg-laying animals from their diet (Orr et al., 2006).  Se is transferred to the eggs where, during the development of the embryo, it can substitute for sulfur in the production of proteins, resulting in deformities or even death of the embryos, depending on how much Se is present in the eggs.  The Elk Valley Selenium Task Force (EVSTF) is continuing its investigations to determine if any adverse ecological effects are occurring or could occur due to elevated Se concentrations in water, sediment and biota in the Elk River Valley.  Membership of the EVSTF includes Elk Valley Coal, Teck Cominco, the B.C. Ministry of the Environment, the B.C. Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, and Environment Canada.  The EVSTF has four specific objectives:  determine if effects are occurring at present, determine if effects could occur in the future, provide input to the review of provincial or national guidelines, and determine site-specific environmental objectives where possible or necessary.  Previous studies summarized in Chapman (2005) and EVSTF (2005) indicated that current levels of Se in the Elk River Valley did not appear to be having large-scale negative effects or impacts.  An effect is simply a change; it becomes an impact when it adversely affects the utility or viability of a valued ecosystem component (a VEC, i.e., population-level adverse effects occur).  However, there were indications of some negative effects occurring on a more localized level.  More recent effects, monitoring and other studies as well as management initiatives, reported in detail in EVSTF (2007), are summarized herein (Figure 1).  2005 EFFECTS STUDIES  Effects studies focused on lentic areas of the Elk River Valley where the highest levels of Se are found and the optimum conditions exist for production of organic Se which can accumulate in eggs.  Red-Winged Blackbirds  Productivity and development were determined for red-winged blackbirds nesting in marshes with elevated Se concentrations (exposed marshes) compared to those with background levels of Se (reference marshes) (Sciwrite Environmental Sciences, 2007).  A key objective was to determine whether or not nestling mortalities previously observed in 2004 (summarized in Chapman, 2005 and EVSTF, 2005) could have been due to Se.  Egg Se concentrations were significantly elevated in the two highest exposure sites (Clode Pond and Goddard Marsh) in comparison to the reference sites.  However, any effects of Se appeared to be modest or absent. No level of Se in eggs was consistently associated with higher numbers of egg failures, lower hatchability, or lower nestling survival.  Similarly, no level of Se in livers of nestlings was consistently associated with higher nestling mortalities.  Six nestlings were found dead at Clode Pond following a period of cold wet weather in the 2004 study. Elevated Se concentrations in their livers originally prompted a hypothesis of Se poisoning despite the fact that there were no other observations consistent with that diagnosis. In 2005 live, apparently healthy fledglings were caught, sacrificed, and their livers found to contain similar or higher levels of Se as the fledglings that died in 2004.  A re-evaluation of the condition of the 2004 dead nestlings (apparently healthy, but empty digestive tracts) indicated that their deaths probably resulted from exposure and/or starvation, which can occur during prolonged rain storms such as occurred in 2004.  In fact, in 2005 dead nestlings were found at both reference and exposed sites during unusually bad weather conditions (rain and snow).   Figure 1:  Selenium studies conducted 1996 through 2005 and recommended through 2010 in the Elk River Valley  Egg temperatures measured with a non-invasive infrared sensor, and observations at the nest sites, indicated that the cold, wet weather was likely responsible for the majority of egg failures in both Se exposed and reference areas.  Necropsies of dead nestlings conducted by a veterinarian wildlife pathologist, together with observations at the nest sites, confirmed that effects of exposure and drowning (resulting from high winds tipping over nests) were the most common causes of death.  Embryonic abnormalities that could have been due to Se were only observed in 2 embryos from a low Se area.  No developmental abnormalities in nestlings were observed despite thorough examinations of dead and sacrificed birds and superficial (to avoid excessive handling) examinations of all live nestlings.  Record rainfall and snow in early June 2005 resulted in overall lower productivity across all sites. However, red-winged blackbird productivity in 2005 was still above levels reported in the rest of British Columbia, which indicates that Se was not having impacts on red-winged blackbird populations in Se-enriched lentic areas of the Elk River Valley.  A surprising finding was a non-linear relationship between Se water concentrations and mean egg Se concentrations.  The red-winged blackbirds appeared to have a declining ability to accumulate Se in their eggs past about 24 mg/kg dry weight; the beneficial effects of Se at low concentrations appears to balance potentially adverse effects at higher concentrations.  Longnose Sucker  Previous longnose sucker effects studies were inconclusive because sufficient numbers of larval fish could not be obtained to fully assess the relationship between egg Se concentrations and any larval deformities.  The design of studies conducted in 2005 (Minnow Environmental and Paine, Ledge and Associates, 2006) was improved based on the previous studies.  A total of 14 and 10 ripe longnose sucker females were captured, respectively, from Goddard Marsh and a reference area. Ripe males from the reference area were generally used for sperm to fertilize these eggs. Se concentrations were measured in sub-samples of the exposed and reference area eggs.  A total of 20,398 embryos began incubation; 6,353 fry were retrieved and analyzed for any deformities. Most surviving larvae had one or more deformities regardless of collection location (exposed or reference) or egg Se concentration.  There were no significant correlations between egg Se concentrations and embryo-fry mortalities or deformities.  Although Se could not be excluded as a possible contributing factor, the observed mortalities and deformities could also have been due to stress from other factors including handling, exposure conditions (e.g., low dissolved oxygen concentrations, temperature extremes), radiation, or parasites.  Columbia Spotted Frogs  Previous Columbia spotted frog effects studies were inconclusive because egg masses could not be found in the reference area to determine background Se concentrations and abnormalities.  In 2005 more wild egg masses were found in both exposed and reference areas than in the previous (2004) effects study, and these egg masses encompassed a wider range of Se concentrations than had been previously assessed (Minnow Environmental, 2006).  In total, 28 egg masses were collected from seven lentic areas in the Elk River Valley. Se water concentrations during collection ranged from <0.5 to 50µg/L, up to 25 times the B.C. water quality guideline of 2µg/L. Approximately 200 embryos from each egg mass were separated into mesh bags, then replaced where they had been found to allow incubation to occur under natural field conditions. Developing embryos were assessed every 3-5 days. A subsample of the embryos was analyzed for Se.  A total of 2,324 tadpoles were collected at the end of the study.  Low tadpole survival was observed in lentic areas with elevated Se concentrations but also in some of the lentic areas with low Se concentrations.  There was no statistically significant relationship between Se concentrations and mortalities, suggesting that other contributing factors were at least partly responsible for the mortalities that occurred.  Based on other frog studies reported in the scientific literature, some of the variability in mortalities and deformities observed among frogs in this study can be considered “normal”.  There was evidence that some types of spinal deformities increased among tadpoles as tissue Se concentrations increased. However, there was high variability in both mortalities and deformities of tadpoles with low Se concentrations.  In addition, there was not a wide range in tissue Se concentrations, and the dose-response relationship was shallow.  A threshold Se tissue effect concentration could not be determined.  This effects study indicated that Se may contribute to tadpole mortalities and deformities.  However, it also indicated that factors other than Se can have an equal or greater influence, particularly at tissue Se concentrations less than 10mg/kg dry weight.  Cutthroat Trout  The 2005 cutthroat trout lentic effects study (Rudolph et al., 2007) was intended to build on a previous lotic cutthroat trout effects study (Kennedy et al., 2000), which demonstrated that cutthroat trout in the Elk River Valley were not adversely affected by relatively high Se concentrations.  The objective was to determine a Se effects threshold for cutthroat trout in the Elk River Valley.  The 2005 effects study assessed reproductive success of cutthroat trout resident in a lentic area with elevated Se concentrations—man-made Clode Pond.  Eggs from 12 female fish from Clode Pond and 16 female fish from O’Rourke Lake (a reference lake) were fertilized and raised to the swim-up fry stage in the laboratory.  Elevated Se concentrations were recorded in both the exposed (16.1 to 140.0 mg/kg dry weight) and the reference fish (12.3 to 16.7 mg/kg dry weight).  This latter finding was unexpected as Se water concentrations in O’Rourke Lake are less than 1 µg/L; they are 71 to 93 µg/L in Clode Pond.  The reference trout from O’Rourke Lake had a greater frequency of many embryonic deformities than fry from four female exposed trout from Clode Pond which had higher egg Se concentrations (up to 20.6 mg/kg dry weight).  In fact, fry from these four Clode Pond female trout showed no significant Se effects in terms of either fry mortalities or deformities.  Surprisingly, although the 2005 study used the same methodology as Kennedy et al. (2000), some of the results were contradictory.  Kennedy et al. (2000) demonstrated that eggs with up to 81.3 mg/kg dry weight Se produced normal fry with no evidence of Se-related deformities or mortalities.  In contrast, in the 2005 study when egg Se concentrations were greater than 46.8 but less than 88.3 mg/kg dry weight (four females), no viable fry were produced.  And when egg Se concentrations were between 88.3 and 140.0 mg/kg dry weight (four females), the eggs died before reaching the laboratory.  This latter observation, of eggs failing to survive, does not fit with the current scientific understanding of the effects of Se on fish reproduction.  Specifically, adverse effects are expected to occur as high enough levels of Se are taken up during embryonic development so that the developing fry is affected, but the egg is not directly killed.  Because of the contradictions between the earlier (Kennedy et al., 2000) and the later (Rudolph et al., 2007) cutthroat trout effects study, a further cutthroat trout effects study will be conducted.  This third trout effects study will attempt to provide data to understand the reason(s) for the differences between the two previous studies and also provide a definitive Se effects threshold for cutthroat trout in the Elk River Valley.  The findings of both the cutthroat trout effects studies have been compared with other Se effects studies with other cold water fish (brook and rainbow trout, white sucker and northern pike—Chapman, 2007). This comparison indicates that cold-water fish including cutthroat trout from the Elk River Valley have higher tolerances to Se taken up via dietary sources than warm-water fish species.  The USEPA (2004) draft whole body Se tissue criterion of 7.9 mg/kg dry weight (which is about 2-fold higher than the present B.C. interim Se tissue guideline) appears to provide a conservative level of protection for these cold-water fish species.  Research into the recovery of several sensitive fish species from two lakes in the south-eastern United States impacted by Se over two decades ago, indicates that the USEPA (2004) draft criterion is also overprotective of warm-water fish, by about a factor of 2-fold (Finley and Garrett, 2007).  However, the level of protectiveness of the USEPA (2004) draft criterion is a contentious issue; site- and species- specific studies are required to set realistically protective upper guideline values.  MONITORING  Water and Associated Biota  Detailed statistical analysis of trends in Se water quality concentrations downstream of the coal mines both at a near-field (Sparwood) and a far-field (Highway 93) federal-provincial water quality monitoring station were conducted (Golder Associates, 2006; Figure 2).  Results indicated a significant long-term increase in total Se concentrations and loadings at the Highway 93 water quality monitoring station between 1984 and 2005.  This increase in concentrations is about 6% per year; loadings showed a similar long-term increasing trend of approximately 7% per year.  The data base for the Sparwood water quality monitoring station was only three years (2002–2005).  Thus, although Se water concentrations are higher than at the downstream Highway 93 station, there is currently not enough data to determine long-term trends.  A regional aquatic monitoring program and spatial and temporal analyses of Se data in water and biota, initiated in 2006, will supplement and expand on long-term water quality monitoring at the two federal- provincial stations.  Preliminary data comparisons indicate that, although Se concentrations and loadings have increased each year in water, fish tissue Se concentrations have not shown similar increases (Figure 3).   Figure 2:  Se concentrations downstream of the Elk River Valley coal mines at near-field (Sparwood) and far-field (Highway 93) federal-provincial water quality monitoring stations. Points represent annual mean Se concentrations.  Vegetation and Sheep  Terrestrial plants that can accumulate Se to dangerous levels (hyperaccumulators) have not been found on reclaimed lands, and mine reclamation seeding does not currently involve such plants (CE Jones and Associates, 2006).  Se concentrations measured in plants to date indicate no cause for concern that animals grazing on these plants could be poisoned by Se.  However, additional measurements of Se in plants growing on reclaimed lands are being made for further certainty. In addition, seed suppliers have been notified of the need to exclude Se hyperaccumulators.  A study for EVCC’s Alberta coal mines (McCallum, 2006) found that Se concentrations in bighorn sheep grazing on reclaimed lands had normal levels of Se in liver and hair and slightly higher levels in whole blood and serum, but well below values shown to be toxic.  Vegetation analyses found no evidence of Se hyperaccumulation and soil Se concentrations were below potentially toxic levels.  Since 1988, a total of 284 bighorn sheep have been captured and translocated from the Luscar Mine in Alberta to the USA and other parts of Alberta to augment existing herds in those locations. Most of these animals were examined by a veterinarian.  None of the animals that were examined exhibited any signs of Se toxicity.  In summary, this study found no clinical signs of Se toxicity in bighorn sheep grazing on reclaimed coal mine lands; populations were high quality, healthy and expanding.   Figure 3:  A. Cutthroat trout muscle Se concentrations in three areas of the Elk River Valley in 1996, 2001, 2002, and 2006. B. Mountain whitefish muscle Se concentrations in the same three areas of the Elk River Valley in 1996, 2001 and 2006. Operational baseline data from 1996 and 2001/2002 (left) are compared to 2006 monitoring data (right). Horizontal lines indicate the mean, mean + 2SD (dashed line), and mean + 3SD (upper solid line). Source: Chapman and de Bruyn (in press).  Resident Fish Communities  Comprehensive data for fisheries in Line Creek, which contains elevated levels of Se from coal mining activities, have been reported through 2001 (Allan, 2003); however, data for 2002 and 2004 were not comparable to previous data due to both inconsistencies in data collection, and to exceptionally high and variable water flows that made sampling physically dangerous (Robinson and Wright, 2005).  Surveys were not conducted in 2005.  Surveys conducted in 2006 (Interior Reforestation, 2007) indicated for bull trout a “trend of stabilization around 100 redds and 200 spawning fish”.  Successful reproduction by both bull trout and cutthroat trout was indicated by the presence of young-of-the-year (YoY) of both species. Abundance was lower than historic highs, but there was a relationship between high flows (as in 2004) and YoY survival and year-class strength (Robinson and Wright, 2005).  A larger-scale assessment of the status of fisheries in the Elk River Valley is being conducted by a graduate student from the University of British Columbia with funding assistance from EVCC (Wilkinson, 2006a,b).  This M.Sc. research is investigating the population dynamics of both bull trout and cutthroat trout in the Elk River Valley. OTHER STUDIES  Summary and Assessment of Available Data  The EVSTF is considering conducting a summary and assessment of all available Se data, possibly using weight-of-evidence and ecological risk assessment components.  This summary would combine all available data on Se fate and effects in the Elk River Valley to determine:  what is known; what is not known; and key uncertainties.  Information Exchange  EVCC has joined with other industries in Canada to form the Canadian Industry Selenium Working Group (CISWG).  This group has joined with similar industries in the United States to form the North American Industry Selenium Working Group (NAISWG).  The purpose of these two Working Groups is both information exchange and pooling of resources so that studies of general importance (i.e., not just to the Elk River Valley) can be conducted.  In addition, the EVSTF is also developing a website for information dissemination and exchange.  Additional Effects Studies  The investigators who conducted the red-winged blackbird, longnose sucker, and Columbia spotted frog studies recommended monitoring but no further effects studies post-2005.  The blackbird studies showed no evidence of impacts (SciWrite Environmental Sciences, 2007).  Few longnose sucker populations exist in the Elk River Valley “and, of these, only the population at GM [Goddard Marsh], which appears to be sustaining itself, has shown tissue Se concentrations well within the range associated with effects on fish in other studies.”  (Minnow Environmental and Paine, Ledge and Associates, 2006).  Low densities of Columbia spotted frogs are sparsely distributed in the Elk River Valley and “few areas have been found that exhibit both elevated Se concentrations and provide adequate CSF [Columbia spotted frog] breeding or overwintering habitat (i.e., near-field, mine-exposed lentic areas)” (Minnow Environmental, 2006).  Presently the only additional effects studies planned are the third cutthroat trout effects study in reference, moderate, and high Se areas in the Elk River Valley, and a spotted sandpiper lotic effects study in 2009. However, other effects studies may be conducted if monitoring or other data indicate both a need and a reasonable chance of obtaining useful data (Figure 1).  Monitoring  Site-specific monitoring of Se and other parameters in discharge water continues at the five mines. Regional monitoring of water and biota will be completed in 2007.  The next cycle of this regional monitoring will occur in 2009.  Monitoring of fish populations and reproduction in Line Creek will continue on a yearly basis.  There is currently no reason to believe that Se from the mines is adversely affecting the terrestrial environment.  There have been no decreases in ungulate herds (elk and sheep) and no evidence of Se toxicity such as cracked hooves or hair loss. In fact, monitoring of elk and sheep populations undertaken routinely by the coal mines indicates that these populations are thriving.  Accordingly, the only terrestrial studies planned are continued monitoring of the health of the ungulate herds and analysis every 5 years (next in 2011) of Se concentrations in vegetation.  Mapping of Lentic and Lotic Habitats  Watershed mapping to determine all lentic areas potentially at risk from Se (e.g., wetlands, marshes, backwater areas) and the relative proportion of lentic and lotic areas in the Elk River Valley is planned for 2007.  This work was originally been scheduled to begin in 2006 but was delayed by the need to fund the 2005 effects studies and by a re-evaluation of the scope of work.  Lake Koocanusa  Lake Koocanusa is the reservoir formed by the Libby Dam on the Kootenay River in Montana.  As such it receives all Se transported downstream from the Elk River and from other sources.  The Lake is not considered a high risk compared to lentic areas within the Elk Valley; EVSTF (2005) recommended that investigations regarding the status of the Lake only be considered if there were impacts at upstream lentic areas.  Such impacts have not been determined to date.  However, depending on the B.C. Ministry of Environment’s budget, they may conduct reconnaissance sampling to determine Se concentrations in the water column, zooplankton, cutthroat trout and kokanee downstream of the confluence with the Elk River.  MANAGEMENT  Three major management efforts are being undertaken: determination of Se sources including release and water quality predictions; investigations into Se cycling; and development of a decision framework.  Selenium Sources  Se source studies are focusing on understanding Se sources and release, and on developing a model to predict future Se releases under different mining scenarios and management approaches.  The ultimate goal is to determine the best means to reduce Se releases from coal mining.  This work will be conducted in two phases. The first phase builds on earlier work (e.g., Ryan and Dittrick, 2000; Lussier, 2001) as well as more recent studies of Se leaching from waste rock piles at different coal mines.  The end product will be a summary of the current state of knowledge including key uncertainties and corresponding data gaps that need to be addressed in order to generate mine-specific and cumulative watershed water quality predictions.  The second phase will address these key uncertainties and data gaps.  Once the data are collected, water quality models and predictions will be made to assess future water quality under current mining and various future mining scenarios.  The largest source of Se discharged from coal mining operations is from waste rock piles due to their large volumes; hence, these will be the initial focus of Se source studies.  Se is released primarily through chemical (oxidation) processes, but there is also a smaller physical (dissolution) release dependent on the hydrologic cycle (i.e., water cycling, in particular precipitation).  Both release mechanisms need to be better understood before accurate predictive modeling can be done.  Selenium Cycling  Biochemical cycling of Se in lentic environments is being investigated to determine what controls the cycling and conversion of inorganic (initially released) and organic (converted by bacterial action, more toxic) Se.  The ultimate goal is to assist in predicting Se-induced toxicity in the aquatic environment of the Elk River Valley.  These investigations may also assist in determining opportunities for management intervention to disrupt the Se cycle and reduce the amount of organic Se in the system.  Decision Framework  A decision framework has been developed for managing Se released from the Elk Valley Coal Corporation (EVCC) coal mines located in British Columbia and Alberta and for assessing knowledge gaps and priority issues.  This decision framework (Chapman et al. 2006a,b; Figure 4) will be used by EVCC to determine the basis for future studies and monitoring at all their mines where Se is a contaminant of potential concern. In addition, research is being conducted at Teck Cominco’s Trail research facility to assess the viability of bacterial treatments to reduce Se concentrations in the aquatic environment.  Bench-scale laboratory studies have demonstrated good potential for Se reductions.  Future work will focus on scaling up from the laboratory to the field.  This research, which is proprietary, is promising but remains to be proven in the field.   Figure 4:  EVCC Coal Mines Selenium Management Decision Framework  CONCLUSIONS  Based on studies conducted to date, current levels of Se in the Elk River Valley do not appear to be having large-scale negative effects or impacts. An effect becomes an impact when it adversely affects the utility or viability of a VEC.  For instance, reduced hatchability of sandpipers is not an impact because productivity is not affected, i.e., number of young produced remains high, in fact higher than the provincial average (Harding et al., 2005).  If productivity were reduced, that would be an impact.  Studies conducted to date suggest that some negative effects are occurring on a more localized level (see Table 1).  However, even in lentic areas, which are at higher risk of adverse effects from Se than the lotic areas that predominate in the Elk River Valley, any Se-related deformities to fish (longnose sucker) or amphibians (Columbia spotted frogs) appear to be highly localized and largely indistinguishable from regional background levels of deformities (EVSTF 2007).  Although the results of the 2005 lentic cutthroat trout effects study contradict to some extent the earlier lotic cutthroat trout effects study, the findings still indicate a relatively high tolerance to Se.  As well, the preliminary findings of a regional monitoring study do not indicate increased Se concentrations in cutthroat trout or mountain whitefish in the Elk River Valley over the last 10 years despite increasing Se water concentrations.  Table 1:  Summary of Effects Studies Conducted to Date in the Elk River Valley, B.C. SPECIES EFFECT? IMPACT? COMMENTS LOTIC Cutthroat trout No No Note findings of lentic studies with this same species below American dipper No No Spotted sandpiper Yes No Significant Se uptake in exposed areas and sandpiper hatching success slightly depressed but productivity high; no effects to dipper and productivity high LENTIC Red-winged blackbirds No No Significant Se uptake in exposed areas but no significant Se-related effects and high productivity Waterfowl (8 species) Inconclusive No Significant Se uptake in exposed areas, but clutch and brood sizes within regional norms. Small sample size; findings not conclusive Longnose sucker No No Se cannot be eliminated as a potential stressor but other factors appear to contribute to observed embryo and larval mortalities and deformities Columbia Spotted frog See comments No Se appears to be contributing to tadpole mortalities and deformities; however, other unknown factors are also contributing to mortalities and deformities, even in reference populations Cutthroat trout Inconclusive Inconclusive Studies conducted in 2005 in lentic areas produced some conflicting results compared to studies conducted previously with this same species in lotic areas; additional studies will be conducted to resolve uncertainties  Terrestrial or human health effects or impacts from Se are not occurring and are not expected to occur in future (Lawrence and Chapman, in press; EVSTF, 2007).  However, increasing Se water concentrations are a concern in the aquatic environment. Thus, management efforts are focusing on managing Se inputs and understanding how to intervene in the Se cycle once Se is in the environment (to reduce production of the more toxic organic form of Se).  If Se concentrations continue to increase in the Elk River Valley, the extent of presently very localized effects could increase and impacts could possibly occur in future.  It is the primary goal of the EVSTF, which is determining if any adverse ecological effects (i.e., impacts) are occurring or could occur due to Se in the Elk River Valley, to minimize this potential risk.  REFERENCES  Allan, J.H. 2003. Fisheries investigations in Line Creek in 2001. Report prepared by Pisces Environmental for Line Creek Mine, Sparwood, B.C., Canada.  CE Jones and Associates. 2006. Excerpted section from the 2005 Annual Reclamation Research Report, Fording River, Greenhills, and Line Creek Operations – reclamation sustainability and metals uptake. Report prepared for Elk Valley Coal Corporation, Elkford, B.C., Canada.  Chapman, P.M. 2005. Selenium status – Elk River Valley, BC. In: Proceedings of the Twenty-Ninth Annual British Columbia Mining Reclamation Symposium: “The Many Facets of Mine Reclamation”. W. Price, B. Hart, B. Dixon, P. Jarman, B. Riordan, M. Freberg, and C. Howell. British Columbia Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation, Abbottsford, B.C., September 19–22, 2005.  Chapman, P.M. 2007. Selenium thresholds for fish from cold freshwaters. Human and Ecological Risk Assessment. Vol. 13, No. 1. pp. 1–5.  Chapman, P.M. and A.M.H. de Bruyn. In Press. A control-chart approach to monitoring and communicating trends in tissue selenium concentrations. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.  Chapman, P.M., H. Ohlendorf, B. McDonald, A. de Bruyn and R. Jones. 2006a. A comprehensive conceptual model for managing selenium inputs from coal mines. Proceedings of the 33rd Aquatic Toxicity Workshop, Jasper, Alberta, October 1–4, 2006.  Chapman P.M., H. Ohlendorf, B. McDonald, A. de Bruyn, and R. Jones. 2006b. A comprehensive selenium management model for coal mining. Presented at the 27th Annual Meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, November 13–17, 2005, Baltimore, Maryland.  EVSTF (Elk Valley Selenium Task Force). 2005. Selenium Status Report 2004 – Elk River Valley, BC. Prepared by Golder Associates, North Vancouver, B.C.  EVSTF (Elk Valley Selenium Task Force). 2007. Selenium Status Report 2005/2006 – Elk River Valley, BC. Prepared by Golder Associates, North Vancouver, B.C.  Finley, K. and R. Garrett. 2007. Recovery at Belews and Hyco Lakes: Implications for fish tissue selenium thresholds. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management. Vol. 3, No. 2. pp. 297–299.  Golder Associates. 2006. Selenium trend analysis Elk River at Sparwood and Highway 93. Report prepared for Elk Valley Coal Corporation, Sparwood, B.C., Canada.  Harding LE, M. Graham and D. Paton. 2005. Accumulation of selenium and lack of severe effects on productivity of American dippers (Cinclus mexicanus) and spotted sandpipers (Actitis macularia). Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. Vol. 48, No. 3. pp. 414–423.  Interior Reforestation. 2007. Line Creek fisheries investigation 2006 program. Report prepared for Elk Valley Coal Corporation, Sparwood, B.C., Canada.  Kennedy C.J., L.E. McDonald, R. Loveridge and M.M. Strosher. 2000. The effect of bioaccumulated selenium on mortalities and deformities in the eggs, larvae and fry of a wild population of cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki lewisi). Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. Vol. 39, No. 1. pp. 46-53.  Lawrence G.C. and P.M. Chapman. In press. Human health risks of selenium-contaminated fish: a case study for essential elements. Human Ecological Risk Assessment.  Lussier C. 2001. Geochemistry of selenium release from the Elk River Valley coal mines. M.Sc. Thesis, Department of Mining Engineering, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C.  McCallum B. 2006. Review of selenium levels in Alberta bighorn sheep from the Luscar and Gregg River coal mines, domestic sheep grazing on reclaimed phosphate mines in Idaho (Fessler 2003) and bighorn sheep from various locations in British Columbia. Report prepared by  Bighorn Wildlife Technologies, Hinton, AB, for Dr. Peter M. Chapman (Golder Associates, North Vancouver, B.C.).  Minnow Environmental. 2006. Evaluation of selenium related effects among Columbia spotted frog tadpoles in wetlands downstream of coal mines in the Elk Valley, BC. Report prepared for the Elk Valley Selenium Task Force.  Minnow Environmental and Paine, Ledge and Associates. 2006. Evaluation of selenium related effects among embryo-larval longnose sucker in the Elk Valley, BC. Report prepared for the Elk Valley Selenium Task Force.  Orr P.L., K.R. Guiguer and C.K. Russel. 2006. Food chain transfer of selenium in lentic and lotic habitats of a western Canadian watershed. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety. Vol. 63, No. 2. pp. 175–188.  Robinson M. and J. Wright. 2005. Line Creek fisheries investigation 2004 program. Report prepared by Interior Reforestation for Elk Valley Coal Corporation, Line Creek Operations, Sparwood, B.C., Canada.  Rudolph B., C.J. Kennedy and I. Andreller. 2007. The effects of selenium on westslope cutthroat trout reproduction and development in fish captured at Clode Pond and O’Rourke Lake. Report prepared for the Elk Valley Selenium Task Force.  Ryan B. and M. Dittrick. 2000. Selenium in the Mist Mountain Formation of southeast British Columbia. British Columbia Ministry of Energy and Mines, Geological Fieldwork 2000, Paper 2001-1. pp. 337–362.  SciWrite Environmental Sciences. 2007. Selenium accumulation and red-winged blackbird productivity. Report prepared for the Elk Valley Selenium Task Force.  USEPA. 2004. Draft aquatic life water quality criteria for selenium – 2004. EPA-822-D-04-001. Office of Water, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C.  Wilkinson, C. 2006a. Elk River trout and char investigation. Summer 2006. Field research proposal for the completion of a Master of Science in the Department of Zoology, UBC Fisheries Centre, Vancouver, B.C.  Wilkinson, C. 2006b. Investigation into the population dynamics of two freshwater salmonids in the Elk River system, upper Kootenay drainage, British Columbia. Funding proposal submitted to Elk Valley Coal Corporation and Trout Unlimited.


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