The impact of oestrogenic sewage discharges on fish populations

Matthiessen, Peter; Balaam, Jan; Johnson, Andrew ORCID:; Katsiadaki, Ioanna; Pottinger, Tom; Readman, Jim; Sumpter, John; Tyler, Charles; Zhou, John. 2009 The impact of oestrogenic sewage discharges on fish populations. In: SETAC Europe 19th Annual Meeting. Protecting ecosystem health: facing the challenge of a globally changing environment, Göteborg, Sweden, 31 May - 4 June 2009. (Unpublished)

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For the last 3 years, this multi-institute programme has been addressing the question of whether oestrogenic discharges from sewage treatment plants are able to damage fish populations. It has been known for some time that such discharges are able to feminise individual male fish of several species in rivers and estuaries, causing induction of various oestrogen biomarkers and altering the development of testicular tissue. It has been hypothesised that feminised (intersex) fish may be reproductively compromised, and this has been demonstrated in life cycle experiments in the laboratory. Furthermore, in vitro experiments have shown that sperm from strongly intersex male roach Rutilus rutilus has reduced ability to fertilise eggs. However, impacts of oestrogens on wild fish populations caused by treated sewage have not been demonstrated to date, although an experiment in a Canadian lake treated with ethinylestradiol at environmentally-relevant concentrations caused the collapse of a fathead minnow Pimephales promelas population. The programme described in this presentation (Endocrine Disruption in Catchments – EDCAT) has tackled this issue by studying wild 3-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus populations in a sewage-contaminated river, and has conducted semi-natural group-breeding experiments with R. rutilus, in which normal males have been allowed to compete with intersex fish. These studies have been supported by detailed chemical analytical and in vitro bioassay measurements, and by the development of improved oestrogen exposure models. The project has focused on the River Ray in southern England whose lower reaches are largely composed of treated sewage effluent from the city of Swindon, and a reference river (the Ock) which is similar to the Ray but receives far less effluent. The Ray was chosen because the Swindon sewage discharge (Rodbourne) was due to be upgraded with granular activated carbon (GAC) treatment plant in early 2008 which was expected to lead to a big reduction in oestrogenic (and other) inputs to the river. This change in inputs provided a good opportunity to study any recovery of fish populations. However, the intersex roach for the breeding experiments have been obtained from several other UK rivers including the Rivers Arun, Bourne, Aire and Nene.

Item Type: Publication - Conference Item (Paper)
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Boorman (to September 2014)
UKCEH Fellows
Additional Keywords: endocrine disruption, wastewater, remediation
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Biology and Microbiology
Date made live: 02 Sep 2015 07:53 +0 (UTC)

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