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Effects of sewage effluent remediation on body size, somatic RNA:DNA ratio, and markers of chemical exposure in three-spined sticklebacks

By Tom G. Pottinger, Alastair Cook, Monika D. Juergens, Glenn Rhodes, Ioanna Katsiadaki, Jan L. Balaam, Andrew J. Smith and Peter Matthiessen


Body mass, fork length, RNA:DNA ratio, specific growth rate, and hepatic EROD activity and CYP1A expression, were measured in three-spined sticklebacks in the River Ray (south west England) at sites downstream of an urban waste water treatment works (WWTW) prior to, and following, remediation of the effluent with granular activated carbon (GAC) tertiary treatment. During the same two-year period fish were also sampled from a neighbouring reference river (R. Ock). The WWTW effluent elevated water temperatures and nutrient content in the R. Ray and rendered a direct comparison of fish populations in the two rivers untenable. Instead, the stability of population parameters within each river during matched pre- and post-remediation periods was compared. Stickleback populations in both rivers were annual but fish in the R. Ray spawned earlier and were larger than those in the R. Ock. In the R. Ray fish gained mass throughout the winter months whereas in the R. Ock growth was much reduced during this period. In fish from the R. Ray the somatic RNA:DNA ratio remained elevated during May-November after remediation, rather than declining as in the same period pre-remediation and as was the case for fish in the R. Ock during both periods. The specific growth rate of the first post-remediation generation of sticklebacks in the R. Ray was higher than that of the previous pre-remediation generation. Following remediation there was no decline in hepatic EROD activity or in the abundance of hepatic CYP1A transcripts in fish in the R. Ray suggesting that the primary route of exposure to contaminants for these fish was not via the water column, and that the change in performance of the fish post-remediation was not impeded by continued exposure to contaminants. Both EROD activity and CYP1A expression increased in fish in the R. Ock during the later stages of the study suggesting that the fish in this river were exposed to an unidentified contaminant episode. This may have been linked with the poorer performance of fish in the R. Ock during the post-remediation period. The improved performance of fish in the R. Ray suggest that there may be factors in good quality secondary treated sewage effluent which can adversely influence the performance of fish populations, directly or indirectly, and which can be removed by tertiary treatment

Topics: Biology and Microbiology, Zoology, Ecology and Environment
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.envint.2010.08.012
OAI identifier:

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