Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 8517
Title: Severe coal tar sealcoat runoff toxicity to fish is reversed by bioretention infiltration
Author: J. K. McIntyre, B. F. Anulacion, J. W. Davis, R. C. Edmunds, J. P. Incardona, John D. Stark, N. L. Scholz
Publication Year: 2016
Journal: Environmental Science & Technology
Keywords: green stormwater infrastructure,stormwater,Zebrafish,development,mitigation,water quality,habitat

Coal tar sealcoat applied to asphalt surfaces throughout North America is rich in petroleum-derived hydrocarbons, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).  Released by leaching and surface wear, PAHs in coal tar sealcoats increase contamination of nearby water bodies, potentially affecting the resiliency of aquatic communities.  Despite this, relatively little is known about the aquatic toxicology of runoff from coal tar sealcoated surfaces. We applied a coal tar sealcoat to existing asphalt and tested the acute lethal and sublethal toxicity of runoff at time intervals of 2 h, 7 d, 14 d, and 7 months post-application. Lethal and sublethal toxicity was evident, with mortality observed in juvenile coho salmon (Onchorhynchus kisutch) and embryo-larval zebrafish (Danio rerio) for 75% and 25% of events, respectively. Sealcoat runoff produced acute cardiovascular toxicity in surviving zebrafish embryos.  In contrast, runoff collected from an adjacent asphalt-only plot produced no acute toxicity. Furthermore, we treated runoff using a green stormwater infrastructure approach - infiltration through experimental bioretention cells containing a mixture of compost and sand.  Bioretention treatment reduced PAH concentrations 10-fold, but not to control levels, as indicated by persistent induction of a molecular marker of aromatic hydrocarbon exposure (cytochrome P450; cyp1a) in zebrafish embryos exposed to treated runoff. In contrast, a molecular marker of cardiac stress (B-type natriuretic peptide; nppb) was significantly induced in zebrafish exposed to coal tar sealcoat runoff, but not in most runoff treated with bioretention.  Elimination of visible cardiotoxicity corresponded with reduced perturbation of molecular cardiotoxicity indicators.

Theme: Habitats to Support Sustainable Fisheries and Recovered Populations
Foci: Assess the impacts of toxic chemicals and other pollutants across biological scales, and identify pollution reduction strategies that improve habitat quality.
Characterize the interaction of human use and habitat distribution, quantity and quality.
Official Citation:

McIntyre, J.K., Anulacion, B.F., Davis, J.W., Edmunds, R.C., Incardona, J.P., Stark, J.D., and Scholz, N.L. 2016. Severe coal tar sealcoat runoff toxicity to fish is reversed by bioretention filtration. Environmental Science and Technology, 50:1570-1578.