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Remediation and Bioremediation of Selenium-Contaminated Waters

Water Quality Control

  1. Richard M. Higashi1,
  2. Teresa A. Cassel1,
  3. Joseph P. Skorupa2,
  4. Teresa W.-M. Fan3

Published Online: 15 JUL 2005

DOI: 10.1002/047147844X.wq496

Water Encyclopedia

Water Encyclopedia

How to Cite

Higashi, R. M., Cassel, T. A., Skorupa, J. P. and Fan, T. W.-M. 2005. Remediation and Bioremediation of Selenium-Contaminated Waters. Water Encyclopedia. 2:355–360.

Author Information

  1. 1

    University of California, Davis, California

  2. 2

    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

  3. 3

    University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 JUL 2005


Selenium (Se) is a trace element that occurs naturally in soils, water, biota, and food. It is nutritionally required, but Se in excess is toxic to aquatic-associated wildlife such as fish and birds. Exposure to Se primarily occurs through the diet, not by direct exposure to water; therefore it is vital to account for the “biogeochemistry” of Se—the complex paths by which it moves from contaminated water up the foodweb. As a consequence, waterborne Se is an inappropriate focus for remediation, and this entry illustrates how such a focus can inadvertently misguide major remediation efforts. In fact, there is no fixed “target concentration” for remediation to achieve, as universally accepted water or tissue threshold concentrations for the protection of wildlife are likely to remain controversial for some time to come. This can stymie the traditional remediation strategies of containment, removal, or treatment. One approach to Se remediation that functions under changing regulatory limits is mitigation of wildlife impacts through “alternative” and “compensation” habitats. Also, strategies that take advantage of the natural biogeochemistry, such as algal volatilization of Se, may provide cost-effective management of contaminated water; however, this approach must be combined with foodweb interruption to prevent Se bioaccumulation.


  • selenium;
  • remediation;
  • bioremediation;
  • TMDL;
  • criteria—aquatic life;
  • biogeochemistry;
  • wildlife;
  • foodweb;
  • ecotoxicity;
  • algal;
  • mitigation;
  • volatilization;
  • drainage