US Geological Survey


Date of this Version

January 2007


Published in Environ Monit Assess (2008) 137:213–232.


The Solomon River Basin is located in north-central Kansas in an area underlain by marine geologic shales. Selenium is an indigenous constituent of these shales and is readily leached into the surrounding groundwater. Portions of the Basin are irrigated primarily through the pumping of selenium-contaminated groundwater from wells onto fields in agricultural production. Water, sediment, macro-invertebrates, and fish were collected from various sites in the Basin in 1998 and analyzed for selenium. Selenium concentrations were analyzed spatially and temporally and compared to reported selenium toxic effect thresholds for specific ecosystem components: water, sediments, food-chain organisms, and whole-body fish. A selenium aquatic hazard assessment for the Basin was determined based on protocol established by Lemly. Throughout the Basin, water, macroinvertebrate, and whole fish samples exceeded levels suspected of causing reproductive impairment in fish. Population structures of several fish species implied that successful reproduction was occurring; however, the influence of immigration of fish from low-selenium habitats could not be discounted. Site-specific fish reproduction studies are needed to determine the true impact of selenium on fishery resources in the Basin.