Team FishyRisk

Team FishyRisk: Predicting Pollution Driven Risks to Anglers of New Haven, CT
Jess Espinosa, Raul Flamenco, Franco Gigliotti, Maddy Meadows-McDonnell

An overarching goal of the Team-TERRA program is to employ trainees to conduct research on climate induced risks to food, water, energy, or ecosystem services (FEWES) in the northeastern USA. To achieve this goal, our team is conducting research on the risks of river contamination to food, water, and ecosystem services provided by the Quinnipiac and Mill Rivers in Fair Haven, CT. Risks to water quality include point and nonpoint source pollution. The structure of the hydraulic network in Fair Haven is prone to combined sewer overflows during periods of heavy rainfall, which release human sewage into the rivers and can contaminate the water with harmful bacteria such as E. coli and Enterococcus spp. Given projected shifts in rainfall patterns to ‘flashier’ storms of greater precipitation, it is likely that strains to the hydraulic network in Fair Haven will only increase in the future. Mercury contamination in the rivers, particularly to anglers who fish for food in these rivers, is also of great concern; mercury can bioaccumulate in harvested fish and shellfish species. 

To address the risks to both ecosystem and human health, we are working with stakeholders to link water quality, contaminant concentrations in fish tissue, and angler consumptive behaviors to quantify the risks stemming from river contamination in our region of interest. So far, we have begun developing models to quantify spatial and temporal variation in pollutant loading using publicly available water quality and land cover data through the Storm Water Management Model (SWMM) and Water Quality Analysis Simulation Program (WASP) from the US EPA. We plan to integrate results from these water quality models with models of bioaccumulation to predict concentrations of focal contaminants in harvested fish and shellfish species. To further inform our understanding of health risks to anglers in the Fair Haven area, we are administering a survey to understand spatial and temporal variability in fishing behavior. These results will be integrated with our estimates of fish contamination to provide a multifaceted approach to food risk assessment. 

Throughout our project development, we have been working closely with stakeholders to identify and incorporate their specific concerns into our analyses. We plan to share our results with stakeholders to inform discussions of potential management interventions to reduce risk. Our goal is to provide valuable insight into risks to food, water, and ecosystem services in the Fair Haven region, and to produce results that will be useful for other coastal cities experiencing similar risks.