Speciation and toxicity of arsenic in mining-affected lake sediments in the Quinsam watershed, British Columbia

Maeve M. Moriarty, Vivian W.-M. Lai, Iris Koch, Longpeng Cui, Chris Combs, Eva M. Krupp, Jorg Feldmann, William R. Cullen, Kenneth J. Reimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Anthropogenic arsenic inputs into fresh water lakes in the Quinsam watershed, British Columbia, were probed by using multiple methods of inquiry including sediment coring combined with Pb dating, a principal components analysis of elemental composition of sediments, arsenic speciation, bioaccessibility, and toxicity testing. The quantification of arsenic inputs from anthropogenic sources was not trivial because a variety of processes redistribute the element throughout lakes. However, elevated arsenic and sulfate concentrations in Long Lake, a lake that receives arsenic from a seep, suggest that this lake is influenced by mine operations. X-ray absorption near edge structure (XANES) spectra reveal similar arsenic speciation for all sediments within the studied lakes. Bioaccessibility tests, which in this study were used to approximate the solubility and availability of arsenic to benthic organisms, indicate moderate bioaccessibility of arsenic in sediments (7.9-35%). Toxicity testing indicates that not all benthic organisms should be used for evaluating arsenic toxicity, and suggests that the amphipod, Corophium volutator, shows promise as a candidate for widespread use for arsenic sediment toxicity testing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-99
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number2
Early online date27 Jul 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

Bibliographical note

The 2008–2010 field programs were carried out by Dr. William R. Cullen and Vivian W.-M. Lai from UBC in the Quinsam watershed and mine site. They were assisted by Peter Winter, Barry Ross and Stan Goodrich from the Campbell River Environmental Committee (CREC) and personnel from the mine. Pacific Northwest Consortium X-ray Sciences Division (PNC/XSD) facilities at the APS, and research at these facilities, are supported by the US Department of Energy — Basic Energy Sciences, a Major Resources Support grant from NSERC, the University of Washington, Simon Fraser University and the Advanced Photon Source. Use of the Advanced Photon Source is also supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, under Contract DE-AC02-06CH11357. Assistance at APS was provided by Dr. Robert Gordon. Mati Raudsepp, Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, UBC, provided the X-ray powder diffraction and electron microscopy analyses. Funding was provided by the Canadian Water Network, and an NSERC Discovery Grant to KJR. The bioassay tests were funded by the TESLA research fund and the University of Aberdeen.


  • sediment
  • arsenic
  • coal mining
  • toxicity testing
  • bioaccessibility


Dive into the research topics of 'Speciation and toxicity of arsenic in mining-affected lake sediments in the Quinsam watershed, British Columbia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this