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The use of tetragnathid spiders as bioindicators of metal exposure at a coal ASH spill site


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On 22 December 2008, a dike containing coal fly ash from the Tennessee Valley Authority Kingston Fossil Fuel Plant (TN, USA) failed, resulting in the largest coal ash spill in US history. The present study was designed to determine sediment metal concentrations at multiple site locations and to determine whether site-specific bioaccumulation of metals existed in tetragnathid spiders. Selenium and nickel were the only 2 metals to exceed the US Environmental Protection Agency sediment screening levels. Selenium concentrations in spiders were significantly higher at ash-affected sites than in those from reference sites. The ratio of methylmercury to total mercury in spiders was found to be similar to that in other organisms (65–75%), which highlights the potential use of tetragnathid spiders as an indicator species for tracing contaminant transfer between the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Environ Toxicol Chem 2013;32:2065–2068. © 2013 SETAC