Document Title:

Factors Affecting Food Chain Transfer of Mercury in the Vicinity of the Nyanza Site, Sudbury River, Massachusetts

Thomas W. May Steven E. Mierzykowski Terry A. Haines R. Todd Finlayson

211 - 232


The influence of the Nyanza Chemical Waste Dump Superfund Site on the Sudbury River, Massachusetts, was assessed by analysis of sediment, fish prey organisms, and predator fish from four locations in the river system. Whitehall Reservoir is an impoundment upstream of the site, and Reservoir #2 is an impoundment downstream of the site. Cedar Street is a flowing reach upstream of the site, and Sherman Bridge is a flowing reach downstream of the site. Collections of material for analysis were made three times, in May, July, and October. Sediment was analyzed for acid-volatile sulfide (AVS), simultaneously-extracted (SEM) metals (As, Cd, Cr, Hg, Pb, Sb, Zn), and total recoverable Hg. The dominant predatory fish species collected at all sites, largemouth bass (Micropterussalmoides), was analyzed for the same suite of metals as sediment. Analysis of stomach contents of bass identified smallfish (yellow perch Perca flavescens, bluegill Lepomismacrochirus, and pumpkinseed Lepomis gibbosus), crayfish,and dragonfly larvae as the dominant prey organisms. Samples of the prey were collected from the same locations and at the sametimes as predator fish, and were analyzed for total and methyl mercury. Results of AVS and SEM analyses indicated that sediments were not toxic to aquatic invertebrates at any site. The SEM concentrations of As, Cd, and Cr were significantly higher at Reservoir #2 than at the reference sites, and SEM As and Cdwere significantly higher at Sherman Bridge than at Cedar St. Sediment total Hg was elevated only at Reservoir #2. Hg washigher at site-influenced locations in all fish speciesexcept brown bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus). Cd washigher in bluegill, black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus),and brown bullhead, and Cr was higher in largemouth bass filletsamples but not in whole-body samples. There were no seasonal differences in sediment or prey organism metals, but some metalsin some fish species did vary over time in an inconsistent manner. Predator fish Hg concentration was significantly linearlyrelated to weighted prey organism methyl Hg concentration. Largemouth bass Hg was significantly lower at Reservoir #2 in our study than in previous investigations in 1989 and 1990. High concentrations of inorganic Hg remain in river sediment asa result of operation of the Nyanza site, and fish Hg concentrations in river reaches downstream of the site areelevated compared to upstream reference sites. However, thedifferences are relatively small and Hg concentrations inlargemouth bass from the site-influenced locations are nohigher than those from some other, nearby uncontaminatedsites. We hypothesize that this results from burial ofcontaminated sediment with cleaner material, which reducesbioavailability of contaminants and possibly reducesmethylation of mercury.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


NOTE: This link will take you to a site outside of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We do not control the content or policies of the site you are about to visit. You should always check site policies before providing personal information or reusing content.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Maine Contaminants Program

Last updated: June 12, 2015