Do sewage treatment plant discharges substantially impair fish reproduction in polluted rivers?

Jessica Douxfils, Douxfils Jessica, Robert Mandiki, Mandiki Robert, Frédéric Silvestre, Silvestre Frédéric, Arnaud Bertrand, Bertrand Arnaud, Delphine Leroy, Leroy Delphine, Jean-Pierre Thomé, Thomé Jean-Pierre, Patrick Kestemont, Kestemont Patrick
Science of the Total Environment 2007 January 1, 372 (2): 497-514
Sewage treatment plants are frequently associated with the release of xenobiotics and, consequently, with alterations of the reproductive function induced by many of these substances in aquatic organisms. In order to assess the impacts of sewage treatment plant (STP) discharges in polluted rivers, two sentinel species (gudgeon Gobio gobio and stoneloach Barbatula barbatula) were caught during their reproductive cycle upstream and downstream two STPs (STP1--Goffontaine, STP2--Wegnez). Gonadosomatic index, histological (testicular and ovarian stages, atretic follicles, intersexuality) and endocrine (sex steroids, aromatase activity, alkali-labile phosphorus) parameters were assayed. In brief, the results revealed no systematic significant differences (p<0.05) between upstream and downstream sites, whatever the STP, species or sampling period. However, stoneloach females displayed some signs of reproductive impairment and endocrine disruption downstream STP1 (reduced GSI, oocyte diameter and ALP concentrations, increased proportion of atretic follicles) and STP2 (changes in gonadal aromatase activity and plasma levels of 11-KT and T). Few significant changes were observed for gudgeon males and females while there were no significant differences between upstream and downstream sites for stoneloach males. Moreover, plasma E(2) concentrations recorded in gudgeon males sampled in all sites were as high as in females and this was confirmed by high ALP levels. Besides, spermatogenesis of gudgeon males was delayed in STP1 upstream and downstream sites compared to the corresponding sites in STP2. These observations for gudgeon males do not seem related to STP discharge but to a probable estrogenicity of the river. Therefore, as shown by the results, stoneloach seemed more sensitive than gudgeon to STP discharges. In the present study, sewage treatment plant discharges do not substantially impair fish reproduction. In this respect, caution is required when generalising negative impacts of STP discharges.

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