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Water quality assessment in the “German River of the years 2014/2015”: how a case study on the impact of a storm water sedimentation basin displayed impairment of fish health in the Argen River (Southern Germany)

Thellmann, Paul, Kuch, Bertram, Wurm, Karl, Köhler, Heinz-R., Triebskorn, Rita
Environmental sciences Europe 2017 v.29 no.1 pp. 10
Danio rerio, basins, case studies, chemical analysis, diagnostic techniques, fauna, fish, fish communities, fish development, gas chromatography, highways, histopathology, kidneys, liver, mutagens, pollutants, rivers, sediments, stormwater, surface water, tissues, toxicity, traffic, wastewater, water quality, Germany, Lake Constance
BACKGROUND: The present work investigates the impact of discharges from a storm water sedimentation basin (SSB) receiving runoff from a connected motorway in southern Germany. The study lasted for almost two years and was aimed at assessing the impact of the SSB on the fauna of the Argen River, which is a tributary of Lake Constance. Two sampling sites were examined up- and downstream of the SSB effluent. A combination of different diagnostic methods (fish embryo test with the zebrafish, histopathology, micronucleus test) was applied to investigate health impairment and genotoxic effects in indigenous fish as well as embryotoxic potentials in surface water and sediment samples of the Argen River, respectively, in samples of the SSB effluent. In addition, sediment samples from the Argen River and tissues of indigenous fish were used for chemical analyses of 33 frequently occurring pollutants by means of gas chromatography. Furthermore, the integrity of the macrozoobenthos community and the fish population were examined at both investigated sampling sites. RESULTS: The chemical analyses revealed a toxic burden with trace substances (originating from traffic and waste water) in fish and sediments from both sampling sites. Fish embryo tests with native sediment and surface water samples resulted in various embryotoxic effects in exposed zebrafish embryos (Fig. 1). In addition, the health condition of the investigated fish species (e.g., severe alterations in the liver and kidney) provided clear evidence of water contamination at both Argen River sites (Fig. 2). At distinct points in time, some parameters (fish development, kidney and liver histopathology) indicated stronger effects at the sampling site downstream of the SSB effluent than at the upstream site. CONCLUSIONS: Our results clearly showed that the SSB cannot be assigned as the main source of pollutants that are released into the investigated Argen River section. Moreover, we showed that there is moderate background pollution with substances originating from waste waters and traffic which still should be taken seriously, particularly with regard to the impairment of fish health at both investigated field sites. Since the Argen is a tributary of Lake Constance, our results call for a management plan to ensure and improve the river’s ecological stability.