Contamination in the Welland River: Perfluorinated compounds in water and aquatic organisms downstream from Hamilton airport
High concentrations of perfluorinated compounds have been found in water and aquatic organisms downstream of Hamilton’s John C. Munro International Airport in the Welland River and Lake Niapenco.
Per- and poly-fluorinated compounds (PFCs) are used in a wide variety of industrial, commercial and domestic products. This includes aqueous film forming foam, which is used by military and commercial airports as fire suppressants. In a preliminary assessment prior to this study, very high concentrations of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), were discovered in the plasma of snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) collected in 2008 from Lake Niapenco in southern Ontario. In a subsequent 2010 trackdown study, a suite of PFCs, including PFOS and a cyclic perfluorinated acid used in aircraft hydraulic fluid, perfluoroethylcyclohexane sulfonate (PFECHS) were sampled from the Welland River and Lake Niapenco, downstream of the John C. Munro International Airport, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Turtles, amphipods, shrimp, and water were also sampled.
Tests done on the plasma of turtles downstream of the Hamilton Airport found that PFOS made up over 99% of all PFCs found. PFOS was also found in high concentrations (19 to 30 times greater than in reference sites) in amphipods and in water downstream of the airport. Concentrations of some PFCs in water and biota declined with distance downstream from the airport. The source(s) of the PFC contamination of Lake Niapenco and the Welland River is currently under investigation.
Source: de Solla, S.R., De Silva, A.O., Letcher, R.J. 2012. Highly elevated levels of perfluorooctane sulfonate and other perfluorinated acids found in biota and surface water downstream of an international airport, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Environment International. 39:19-26.
Contact: Shane de Solla (905) 336-4686, Ecotoxicology and Wildlife Health Division
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