Summary of a decade of research on the effects of a ...

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Title Summary of a decade of research on the effects of a New Zealand pulp and paper mill on reproduction in fishes
Author(s) Michael R. van den Heuvel, Alison H. Slade, Michael J. Landman
Journal Water Quality Research Journal of Canada
Date 2010
Volume 45
Issue 2
Start page 123
End page 135
Abstract The effluent of the Tasman pulp and paper mill (Kawerau, New Zealand) has been intensively studied for its effects on the health of fishes between 1998 and present. This review summarizes peer-reviewed scientific literature on the reproductive effects of the Tasman Mill effluent on fishes. In the 1990s there was an emerging body of literature from around the world showing that exposure to pulp and paper effluent could cause subtle reproductive alterations in exposed fishes. Locally, the Tarawera River had proved to be a difficult environment to conduct field studies. To overcome some of the difficulties with studying fish populations in the Tarawera River, initial studies on the reproductive health of fishes were focused on mesocosm and laboratory bioassays. During the later part of this period of study, wild fish population sampling was conducted in-river to assess the cumulative impact of multiple discharges. The initial mesocosm studies were conducted with rainbow trout exposures over an entire reproductive development cycle. The Tasman Mill effluent was initially observed to cause reductions in gonad size in females corresponding with lower circulating sex steroid hormones and reduced egg and larval sizes. This result was not observed again in the two subsequent long-term exposures conducted after 2001. Laboratory studies initially found the effluent to have a masculinizing effect on female mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis). This mosquitofish masculinization response disappeared after 2001 and was also not seen in effluent-exposed wild populations. Upstream and downstream populations of the native common bully (Gobiomorphus cotidianus) showed different reproductive timing, and investigation revealed that genetic differences were a potential reason for these differences. Subsequent investigation compared the Tarawera River bully to genetically similar Rangitiki River bully and found no evidence of reproductive alterations. The entire body of published data was assessed with regards to changes at the mill and chemical profiles of the effluent. It was evident that continuing effort on the part of the mill has resulted in gradual improvement in effluent quality over the duration of the studies. However, the disappearance of reproductive effects as assessed by multiple bioassays corresponds to one major change: screen room closure in the pulp mill. This change would have resulted in wood extractives being shunted from the treatment system to the recovery boiler, resulting in a net reduction in compounds derived from wood.

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