DV-14-02 Metal Accumulation by Seaweeds at the Callahan Mine Superfund Site

Ian Medeiros
College of the Atlantic

Nishanta Rajakaruna
College of the Atlantic

Seaweeds harvested and grown off the Maine coast support a strong and expanding seafood industry. Marine macroalgae have many unique characteristics, including the ability to absorb or bioaccumulate heavy metals. Whether or not these metals are available to consumers or have toxic effects is unclear. There also is interest around the world in the use of marine algae as indicators of environmental pollution.

An opportunity to study the impact of metal pollution on commercially important seaweed species is presented by Callahan Mine, a Superfund site in Brooksville on the eastern side of Penobscot Bay. The mine area is contaminated with heavy metals and organic pollutants as a result of mining operations in the late 1960s–early 1970s that extracted ore containing copper, zinc, lead, and silver from an open pit located in what is now Goose Pond. A number of studies to date have looked at metal bioaccumulation in fish, aquatic invertebrates, and vascular plants at the Callahan Mine.

In this study, Madeiros and Rajakaruna will document the diversity and abundance of marine macroalgae species in the vicinity of Callahan Mine; determine metal content in the most abundant seaweed species; measure how metal levels in seaweed change with distance from the mine; investigate whether economically useful seaweed species accumulate toxic metals; and determine whether particular seaweed species are useful for monitoring metal contamination in the coastal Maine environment, and evaluate the potential for phycoremediation of Callahan Mine.

Sea Grant funds: $2,050