Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 7625
Title: Zebrafish and clean water technology: Assessing soil bioretention as a protective treatment for toxic urban runoff
Author: J. K. McIntyre, J. W. Davis, J. P. Incardona, John D. Stark, B. F. Anulacion, N. L. Scholz
Publication Year: 2014
Journal: Science of the Total Environment
Keywords: Stormwater runoff,development,Zebrafish,toxicity

 Urban stormwater contains a complex mixture of contaminants that can be acutely toxic to aquatic biota.  Green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) is a set of evolving technologies intended to reduce impacts on natural systems by slowing and filtering runoff.  The extent to which GSI methods work as intended is usually assessed in terms of water quantity (hydrology) and quality (chemistry).   Biological indicators of GSI effectiveness have received less attention, despite an overarching goal of protecting the health of aquatic species.  Here we use the zebrafish (Danio rerio) experimental model to evaluate bioinfiltration as a relatively inexpensive technology for treating runoff from an urban highway with dense motor vehicle traffic.  Zebrafish embryos exposed to untreated runoff (48-96 h; six separate storm events) displayed an array of developmental abnormalities, including delayed hatching, reduced growth, pericardial edema, microphthalmia (small eyes), and reduced swim bladder inflation.  Two of the six storms were acutely lethal, and sublethal toxicity was evident across all storms, even when the stormwater was diluted by as much as 95% in clean water.  As anticipated from exposure to cardiotoxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), untreated runoff also caused heart failure, as indicated by circulatory stasis, pericardial edema, and looping defects.  Bioretention treatment dramatically improved stormwater quality and reversed nearly all forms of developmental toxicity.  The zebrafish model therefore provides a versatile experimental platform for rapidly assessing GSI effectiveness.