Water Quality Research Journal of Canada

Vol. 45 (1): 13 - 24 (2010). General issue

Water Quality Effects from an Aquaculture Operation in a Meromictic Iron Pit Lake in Northwestern Ontario, Canada

   Kimberly A. McNaughton , Peter F. Lee

In 1989, aquaculture for the production of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) was started in the upper depths of the 180-m deep Caland pit lake formed after the flooding of the former Steeprock Iron Mine. After ten years of operation, water quality was shown to be affected by the fish farm as well as proximal waste and the surficial geology of the area. Meromictic conditions occurred in the pit lake with a dichotomy in water quality versus depth. A cluster of parameters (ammonia, total phosphorus, total Kjeldahl nitrogen, dissolved organic carbon, B, pH, dissolved oxygen) were either in higher concentrations in the mixolimnion or varied little throughout the entire water column, and a second cluster of parameters had higher levels below the chemocline (conductivity, alkalinity, dissolved inorganic carbon, total dissolved solids, nitrate, sulfate, Ca, Mg, hardness, Na, Cl, K, Fe, Mn, Sr, and silicon dioxide). Statistically significant variations in concentrations among many of these chemical parameters were observed between the two years of study, among depths, and among seasons. Nutrient loading from excess fish food and waste increased phosphorus and ammonia levels. The expansion of the fish farm also reduced the levels of dissolved oxygen in the lower depths of the pit lake, thus reducing the volume of usable water for aquaculture purposes. In the early 2000s the fish farm decreased production and those closed in 2006. Later data showed that nitrate and potassium had corresponding decreases in both the monimolimnion and the mixolimnion. Sulfate levels remained elevated.

aquaculture, meromictic, northwestern Ontario, pit lake

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