Legacy of a Chemical Factory Site: Contaminated Groundwater Impacts Stream Macroinvertebrates

Jes J. Rasmussen, Ursula S. McKnight, Anne Thobo Sonne, Peter Wiberg-Larsen, Poul Løgstrup Bjerg

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Legislative and managing entities of EU member states face a comprehensive task because the chemical and ecological impacts of contaminated sites on surface waters must be assessed. The ecological assessment is further complicated by the low availability or, in some cases, absence of ecotoxicity data for many of the compounds occurring at contaminated sites. We studied the potential impact of a contaminated site, characterised by chlorinated solvents, sulfonamides, and barbiturates, on benthic macroinvertebrates in a receiving stream. Most of these compounds are characterised by low or unknown ecotoxicity, but they are continuously discharged into the stream by way of a long-lasting source generating longterm chronic exposure of the stream biota. Our results show that taxonomical density and diversity of especially sediment dwelling taxa were reduced by [50 % at the sampling sites situated in the primary inflow zone of the contaminated GW. Moreover, macroinvertebrate communities at these sampling sites could be distinguished from those at upstream control sites and sites situated along a downstream dilution gradient using multidimensional scaling. Importantly, macroinvertebrate indices currently used did not identify this impairment, thus underpinning an urgent need for developing suitable tools for the assessment of ecological effects of contaminated sites in streams.
Original languageEnglish
JournalArchives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)219-230
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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