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Do coastal Maine lakes have fish higher in mercury?

lake through treesInstitution: University of Maine
Sponsor: Maine Water Institute (WRRI)

Mercury (Hg) is second on the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s (ATSDR) list of priority pollutants and is a global contaminant of major concern because exposure to the neurotoxin poses risk to human and wildlife health. Fish tissue contamination by Hg underlies the current statewide fish consumption advisory in Maine for all freshwaters. Over the past few years, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has been in support of our research to assess current levels of contamination in lake fish tissue and better understand Hg dynamics in watersheds. When finalized, these results will be shared with the Maine Center for Disease Control (CDC) for their future consideration when evaluating advisories. Our research has revealed that both historic and recent analyses of fish tissue obtained from lakes in close proximity to Maine’s coastal waters reveal particularly high Hg concentrations in both water and fish tissue. Because Acadia National Park (ANP) has been the site of numerous terrestrial and aquatic Hg studies and has the distinction of having the lake with the highest recorded Hg levels in fish in the 1990s, we decided to target lakes in ANP the park for additional data acquisition to determine whether coastal proximity is a factor. This project would support fish tissue, water and sediment chemistry data acquisition from nine to 15 lakes located within approximately 30 kilometers of the Maine Coast. At least half of these lakes would be located on Mount Desert Island because of the rich Hg datasets collected from ANP. These data will be utilized in conjunction with existing data (landscape attributes and lake chemistry and morphometry data), to determine if and how a coastal proximity component should be included when constructing models to predict Hg contamination levels in Maine fish. In addition, data obtained under this project will be shared with the Maine CDC.

Team Members

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