JOURNAL ARTICLE

A survey of Canadian mechanical pulp and paper mill effluents: insights concerning the potential to affect fish reproduction

Tibor G Kovacs, Pierre H Martel, Brian I O'Connor, L Mark Hewitt, Joanne L Parrott, Mark E McMaster, Deborah L MacLatchy, Glen J Van Der Kraak, Michael R Van Den Heuvel
Journal of Environmental Science and Health. Part A, Toxic/hazardous Substances & Environmental Engineering 2013, 48 (10): 1178-89
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Building on breakthroughs recently made at kraft mills, a survey of mechanical pulp and paper mill effluents was undertaken to gain insights concerning potential effects on fish reproduction. Effluents from seven Canadian mills were characterized chemically for conventional parameters such as biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and total suspended solids (TSS). Each sample was further subjected to solvent extraction followed by gas chromatographic separation for the determination of resin/fatty acids and for the estimation of a gas chromatography (GC) profile index. Each mill effluent was assessed for the potential to affect fish reproduction in the laboratory using a five day adult fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) egg production bioassay with exposures to 100% effluent. The seven effluents were found to have substantial variation both in terms of chemical characterization and effects on fish reproduction. Temporal variations were also noted in effluent quality at mills sampled on different occasions. Similar to what has been observed for kraft mills, a general trend of greater reductions in egg production caused by effluents with greater BOD concentrations and GC profile indices was noted. Effluents with BOD > 25 mg/L and GC Profile indices >5.0 caused a complete cessation of egg production. At the same time, about half of the total effluents sampled had BOD < 25 mg/L and GC profile indices <5.0 and caused no significant effects on egg production, suggesting these values may be useful as effluent quality targets for mechanical pulp and paper mills. However, 3 out of 14 effluents sampled had BOD < 25 mg/L and GC profile indices <5.0 and caused significant reductions in egg production. The reason(s) for reproductive effects caused by such effluents is presently unclear. The effluent quality parameters considered in this study may require further refinement to address their utility in predicting the adverse reproductive effects induced by effluents from mechanical pulp and paper mills.

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