State Water Resources Research Institute Program


Project Id: 2010SC71B
Title: Effects of water pollution on fish health in the Saluda River
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2010
End Date: 2/28/2011
Congressional District: 3rd and 4th
Focus Categories: Water Quality, Toxic Substances, Surface Water
Keywords: Conservation, Environmental Risk Assessment, Biomarkers, Fish Toxicology
Principal Investigators: van den Hurk, Peter; Haney, Dennis C.
Federal Funds: $ 29,977
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 49,671
Abstract: In 2009 the Saluda River was ranked as # 6 of America's Most Endangered Rivers by American Rivers, a leading conservation organization. The sole reason for this status is the excessive phosphorous levels in the river that , which originate mostly from wastewater treatment plant effluents. As a result of the elevated phosphorous levels regular algal blooms and occasional fish kills have beenare observed in Lake Greenwood, one of the major reservoirs on the Saluda River. Furthermore, tThe Saluda River watershed is home to more than 350,000 residents, and provides drinking water for more than 500,000 inhabitants of the Upstate and Piedmont of South Carolina. Withna. As a result of the elevated phosphorous levels regular algal blooms and occasional fish kills are observed in Lake Greenwood, one of the major reservoirs in the Saluda River. With the human population rapidly growing in the Saluda watershed, protecting this clean drinking water supply and preservation ofing fishing and other recreational activities on the river and reservoirs is of crucial importance.

The goal of ranking the Saluda River on the list of most endangered rivers is to encourage the SC Department of Health and Environmental Quality to set stricter guidelines for allowable phosphorous concentrations in effluents from the wastewater treatment plants in the watershed.

Despite the accumulated knowledge on the concentrations and effects of elevated phosphorous levels in the Saluda River and Lake Greenwood, nothing little is known about the effects of other contaminants in the Saluda River. Not only does the river receive phosphorous-rich effluents from wastewater treatment plants, but there are also several other industrial point sources along the river. Over the last two decades more than 500 violations of NPDES permits have been documented for facilities that discharge wastewater on the Saluda River. And iIn addition, pollution from non-point sources in thise rapidly urbanizing watershed contributes to the total contaminant load in the river. Finally, Of special concern are the effluents of wastewater treatment plants: not only do they release excess nutrients into the river, but they also are major sources for pharmaceuticals and personal care products which that are not contained or degraded in the treatment plants with outdated technologies. Some of these contaminants of concern are known to mimic natural hormones, like estrogens, thus inducing endocrine disrupting effects.

Because virtually nothing is known about the biological effects of pollutants (other than nutrients) in the Saluda River, and because of the elevated current public attention for the water quality effects in the river, it is urgent that more scientific data are collected on the health of the aquatic ecosystem in the river. We propose to initiate a study in which aquatic animals will be collected from the river and will then be analyzed for health status and pollution effects. Because effects in animals that are in the top tiers of the food web are often good indicators for ecosystem health, and also because they are of economic importance, we will focus on largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) as the model species for these investigations. Thus, the overall goal for this project is to investigate exposure and effects of anthropogenic pollutants on fish in the Saluda River. We will achieve this goal by collecting largemouth bass from a variety of sites along the river, and by measuringe a suite of health parameters, among which: that include somatic indices, tissue histology, blood and bile analysis and expression of detoxifying enzymes and proteins in liver. An important part of the project is to get students from high school to graduate school levels involved in the project and also to actively relay the obtained information to local conservation interest groups.

Progress/Completion Report, 2010, PDF

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