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Keywords:

  • Environmental Monitoring Program;
  • Fish population;
  • Impact assessment;
  • Sentinel species

Abstract

The Canadian environmental effects monitoring (EEM) program is a regulated, cyclical, industry-funded program designed to determine whether receiving water impacts exist when a mill is in compliance with its discharge limits. The results from three cycles of the fish monitoring program (1992 to 2004) are available from over 200 surveys of fish compared between sites located upstream and downstream of pulp and paper mill effluent outfalls. Previous meta-analyses have shown a national average response pattern across cycles characterized by an increase in endpoints measuring energy storage and growth and a decrease in a reproductive endpoint, consistent with a response of nutrient enrichment in combination with some form of metabolic disruption. Although the national average pattern of effects was temporally consistent, there was some variability in the magnitude of effects among cycles. Questions were raised as to whether the intercycle variability was due to changes in effluent quality or due, at least in part, to other factors. The present study compares responses over the first three cycles, and shows that the choice of sentinel species is likely to be a major contributing factor to the variability in observed effects. Subset analyses using studies from mills that used the same sentinel species across cycles reveal fairly uniform responses and little evidence of significant improvements in overall fish health from cycles one to three. However, a meta-analysis using 1991 data collected from 10 mills before the implementation of the EEM program and data from the same mills collected during cycles one to three of the program reveal significantly reduced effects on relative liver weight and potential improvements in other endpoints. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010;29:440–452. © 2009 SETAC