Using an expert judgment response matrix to assess the risk of groundwater discharges from remediated fuel spill sites to the marine environment at sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island, Australia.


King CK(1), Wasley J(1), Holan J(1), Richardson J(1), Spedding T(1).
Author information:
(1)Australian Antarctic Division, Kingston, Tasmania, Australia.


This study assesses toxicity of groundwater from remediated fuel spill sites, as the final phase of an environmental risk assessment of contaminated sites at sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island, Tasmania, Australia. To complement previous terrestrial ecotoxicological research, we determine risk to marine environments from residual biodegraded hydrocarbon contaminants in groundwater discharges. Direct toxicity assessments were conducted on 7 composite groundwater test solutions, adjusted to ambient seawater salinity. Eleven native marine invertebrates (from varied taxa: gastropods, bivalves, flatworms, amphipods, copepods, isopods) were exposed and observed for up to 21 d. Lethal time estimates (LT10, LT50) showed sensitivity was time dependent (LT10s = 4-15 d) and variable between species. Three species showed no response to any test solution, and most species did not respond for up to 5 d. Data were interpreted using an expert judgment response matrix with multiple lines of evidence to predict risk. No consistent patterns in the relative toxicity of test solutions, based on polar or nonpolar hydrocarbon concentrations, were identified. Although toxicity was observed in some species, this was only under worst-case conditions of undiluted, continuous, extended exposure. Natural dynamics of the site, including low groundwater discharge rates, high rainfall, and a highly energetic receiving environment, ensure groundwater is rapidly diluted and dispersed. In this context, and based on site conditions at the time of testing, these toxicity assessments provide robust evidence that residual contamination in groundwater at remediated sites at Macquarie Island is unlikely to represent a risk to the adjacent marine communities tested. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2021;17:785-801. © 2020 The Authors. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society of Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry (SETAC).