Update on the status of selenium investigations in the Elk River Valley, B.C. Chapman, Peter M.; Berdusco, Roger Joseph; Jones, Ron
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.
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