Reduction in organic contaminant exposure and resultant hepatic hydropic vacuolation in winter flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus) following improved effluent quality and relocation of the Boston sewage outfall into Massachusetts Bay, USA: 1987-2003.
Effluent upgrades for metropolitan Boston have included toxicant reduction, primary and secondary treatment and outfall extension. Between 1992 and 2003 winter flounder at five stations were surveyed annually for liver and muscle burden and chronic hepatic sub-lethal impacts of polynuclear and halogenated aromatic hydrocarbons, and metals. Trends in flounder availability and fin condition were also examined. In 1988 12% of the adult winter flounder in Boston Harbor exhibited hepatic neoplasms and up to 80% had hepatic hydropic vacuolation (HV). Tumor prevalence fell to 0-2% and HV to <50% by 1996. Since then tumors have been absent, while a steady prevalence of HV has persisted, consistent with lower hydrocarbon loading and tissue levels. Contaminants and HV also fell with distance from the Boston outfall. After the outfall extension was activated in 2000, there has been no significant change in flounder liver health at the new outfall site.