Elevated environmental levels of elements originating from anthropogenic activities threaten natural communities and public health, as these elements can persist and bioaccumulate in the environment. However, their environmental risks and bioaccumulation patterns are often habitat-, species- and element-specific. We studied the bioaccumulation patterns of 11 elements in seven freshwater taxa in post-mining habitats in the Czech Republic, ranging from less polluted mining ponds to highly polluted fly ash lagoons. We found nonlinear, power-law relationships between the environmental and tissue concentrations of the elements, which may explain differences in bioaccumulation factors (BAF) reported in the literature. Tissue concentrations were driven by the environmental concentrations in non-essential elements (Al, As, Co, Cr, Ni, Pb and V), but this dependence was limited in essential elements (Cu, Mn, Se and Zn). Tissue concentrations of most elements were also more closely related to substrate than to water concentrations. Bioaccumulation was habitat specific in eight elements: stronger in mining ponds for Al and Pb, and stronger in fly ash lagoons for As, Cu, Mn, Pb, Se, V and Zn, although the differences were often minor. Bioaccumulation of some elements further increased in mineral-rich localities. Proximity to substrate, rather than trophic level, drove increased bioaccumulation levels across taxa. This highlights the importance of substrate as a pollutant reservoir in standing freshwaters and suggests that benthic taxa, such as molluscs (e.g., Physella) and other macroinvertebrates (e.g., Nepa), constitute good bioindicators. Despite the higher environmental risks in fly ash lagoons than in mining ponds, the observed ability of freshwater biota to sustain pollution supports the conservation potential of post-industrial sites. The power law approach used here to quantify and disentangle the effects of various bioaccumulation drivers may be helpful in additional contexts, increasing our ability to predict the effects of other contaminants and environmental hazards on biota.