State Water Resources Research Institute Program


Project ID: 2009OR110B
Title: Detecting Heavy Metal Contamination in the Umatilla River of Eastern Oregon
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2009
End Date: 2/28/2010
Congressional District: 5th
Focus Categories: Agriculture, Non Point Pollution, Hydrogeochemistry
Keywords: agriculture, aquatic macroinvertebrates, bioaccumulation, crayfish, Eastern Oregon,
Principal Investigator: DeBano, Sandra
Federal Funds: $ 19,335
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 56,265
Abstract: Heavy metal contamination of streams and rivers is a major threat to the health of humans and aquatic organisms. A variety of human activities can result in increased heavy metal concentrations in water, sediments, and aquatic organisms. The impact of increased heavy metal concentrations in aquatic systems is a threat not only to the organisms living in the water, but also to terrestrial consumers at higher tropic levels, including humans. However, little research has been conducted examining the extent to which various agricultural practices, such as the use of fertilizers, result in significant increases in heavy metal concentratio ns in stream and river systems. This project proposes to examine whether agricultural land uses are associated with increases in the presence of biologically active heavy metals in an Eastern Oregon watershed that is heavily impacted by agricultural activity. We propose comparing the usefulness of four aquatic invertebrate taxa as indicators of the amount of biologically active heavy metals in the system. This will allow us to determine the degree to which heavy metals represent a threat to aquatic systems in agricultural areas in the Umatilla Watershed of Eastern Oregon, and to relate concentrations of heavy metal in invertebrate tissue to local land uses. The goal is to relate patterns of heavy metal concentration in aquatic invertebrates to land uses, including agricultural and urban land uses. The specific objectives of this study are to: 1) quantify heavy metal concentrations in tissues of an indigenous crayfish and four taxa of aquatic insects at 15 sites spanning the upper, middle, and lower Umatilla River, 2) determine which of four invertebrate taxa with different feeding habits will be the most useful indicator for heavy metal contamination in the future, and 3) examine the relationship between heavy metal levels in these aquatic invertebrates with known and perceived input sources of heavy metals on the Umatilla River.

The project involves both graduate and undergraduate students. The results of this project will allow stakeholders in the region, including local tribes, soil and water conservation districts and watershed councils, and agricultural producers to develop best management practices aimed at reducing heavy metal contamination.

Progress/Completion Report, 2009, PDF

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