US Geological Survey


Document Type


Date of this Version



Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 90: 289–321, 2004.


U.S. Government Work


Fish were collected in late 1995 from 34 National Contaminant Biomonitoring Program (NCBP) stations and 12 National Water Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA) stations in the Mississippi River basin (MRB), and in late 1996 from a reference site in West Virginia. The NCBP sites represented key points (dams, tributaries, etc.) in the largest rivers of the MRB. The NAWQA sites were typically on smaller rivers and were selected to represent dominant land uses in their watersheds. The West Virginia site, which is in an Eastern U.S. watershed adjacent to the MRB, was selected to document elemental concentrations in fish used for other aspects of a larger study and to provide additional contemporaneous data on background elemental concentrations. At each site four samples, each comprising (nominally) 10 adult common carp (Cyprinus carpio, ‘carp’) or black bass (Micropterus spp., ‘bass’) of the same sex, were collected. The whole fish were composited by station, species, and gender for analysis of arsenic (As), lead (Pb), and selenium (Se) by atomic absorption spectroscopy and for cadmium (Cd), copper (Cu), and zinc (Zn) by inductively-coupled plasma emission spectroscopy. Concentrations of most of the elements examined were lower in both carp and bass from the reference site, a small impoundment located in a rural area, than from the NCBP and NAWQA sites on rivers and larger impoundments. In contrast, there were few overall differences between NCBP sites NAWQA sites. The 1995 results generally confirmed the continued weathering and re-distribution of these elemental contaminants in the MRB; concentrations declined or were unchanged from 1984–1986 to 1995 at most NCBP sites, thus continuing two-decade trends. Exceptions were Se at Station 77 (Arkansas R. at John Martin Reservoir, CO), where concentrations have been elevated historically and increased slightly (to 3.8–4.7 μg g−1 in bass and carp); and Pb, Cd, and Zn at Station 67 (Allegheny R. at Natrona, PA), where levels of these metals were high in the past and increased from 1986 to 1995.