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TitlePetroleum coke and soft tailings sediment in constructed wetlands may contribute to the uptake of trace metals by algae and aquatic invertebrates
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsBaker, L. F., Ciborowski J. J. H., & MacKinnon M. D.
Pagination9 pages
Date Published01/2012
PublisherScience of The Total Environment
Publication Languageeng
Keywordsaquatic vegetation, chemistry, coke, field trials, invertebrates, metals, sediment, wetlands

The fate of trace metals in pore water collected from wetland sediments and organisms exposed to petroleum coke were evaluated within in situ aquatic microcosms. Oil sands operators of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada produced 60 million tonnes of petroleum coke by 2008, containing elevated concentrations of sulphur and several trace metals commonly seen in oil sands materials. This material may be included in the construction of reclaimed wetlands. Microcosms were filled with a surface layer of petroleum coke over mine-waste sediments and embedded in a constructed wetland for three years to determine how these materials would affect the metal concentrations in the sediment pore water, colonizing wetland plants and benthic invertebrates. Petroleum coke treatments produced significantly elevated levels of Ni. We also found unexpectedly higher concentrations of metals in “consolidated tailings” waste materials, potentially due to the use of oil sands-produced gypsum, and higher background concentration of elements in the sediment used in the controls. A trend of higher concentrations of V, Ni, La, and Y was present in the tissues of the colonizing macrophytic alga Chara spp. Aeshnid dragonflies may also be accumulating V. These results indicate that the trace metals present in some oil sands waste materials could be taken up by aquatic macro-algae and some wetland invertebrates if these materials are included in reclaimed wetlands.

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Fort McMurray

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