Study supports Greater Yellowstone's selenium position but press release misleads on 2-headed fish

A new study supports environmentalists’ call for keeping federal limits on selenium in the Blackfoot River watershed at current or even lower levels than they are now.

Selenium levels in the southeast Idaho stream consistently exceeded even the industry proposed guidelines for protection of fish and wildlife, said Justin Conley, from North Carolina State University.

“It is decidedly clear that the potential for adverse impacts of (selenium) exposure on survival and reproduction of (Yellowstone cutthroat trout) and other fish and wildlife are significantly greater in streams impacted by active and inactive phosphate mining, Conley wrote.

Earlier this year, J.R.Simplot Co. asked the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality to approve higher limits on selenium in Sage and Crow creeks below its Smoky Canyon Mine. Simplot said its study showed that selenium levels can exceed the current federal standard of 5 parts per billion and still protect fish populations that have been stable in the creeks for decades.

DEQ is still studying the issue.

The study, Evaluation of Selenium in Biotic and Abiotic Ecosystem Components of the Blackfoot River Watershed, comes from a compilation of all available data collected from 1997-2011 by federal and state agencies, several phosphate mining companies, and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, which released it Thursday.

The press release follows one issued a week ago from a collaborative group of mining companies and the Idaho Conservation League and Trout Unlimited about their joint restoration efforts in the Blackfoot River. I wrote a blog.

“This report is yet another reason for the mining companies to quit stonewalling and start cleaning up their mine sites,” said Marv Hoyt, GYC’s Idaho Director. “Rather than attempting to green-wash themselves by paying to screen irrigation ditches, the companies should address the real threat to Yellowstone cutthroat trout in the Blackfoot River watershed – toxic selenium contamination from active and inactive phosphate mines.”

The Greater Yellowstone Coalition press release seeks to play on the publicity it got earlier this year from a two-headed brown trout fry which was the progeny of trout taken from two streams below the J.R. Simplot Co.’s Smoky Canyon Mine and raised in a hatchery in Wyoming. The picture of the trout was in the New York Times and Comedy Central did a mock report on it in June.

Its photo was one of several dozen in an appendix to the 2,070-page study Simplot did. Mutated Yellowstone cutthroat fry, raised from hatchery fish that never swam in Idaho, also were pictured. One of those fry also grew two heads. But that fish had not been subjected to higher selenium.

Those facts were left out of the press release which stated flatly: “Southeast Idaho’s phosphate mining district — which produced the two-headed trout last year — already has 17 federal Superfund sites where industry cleanup is lagging or nonexistent.”

But the tiny brown trout was not produced in Idaho. It was produced in a lab just like the two-headed cutthroat whose parents came from Montana.

When I called Hoyt he acknowledged the fact that all fish populations have some mutations and that the fish actually were raised in a laboratory in Wyoming. But he said it wasn't the point of Conley's study or the press release that led by describing the area as "southeast Idaho's notorious two-headed trout district."

"The issue of deformities in the report was minor,” Hoyt said.

Simplot spokesman David Cuoio said the company had no comment.

1354841554 Study supports Greater Yellowstone's selenium position but press release misleads on 2-headed fish Idaho Statesman Copyright 2014 Idaho Statesman . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


At least the two headed fish wasn't caused by selenium. Must'a been global warming, right Rocky? Actually this is one of your better efforts and is newsworthy and appreciated. I is sad however, that is newsworthy primarily because it comes in response to deliberate lies, propaganda and obfuscation by the Greater Yellowstone Coalition's widely quoted press release. Watermelon environmentalism based on junk science and political agenda's is harmful to the environment. It turns people off.

So what

Who cares if the 2-headed fish lived in a lab if it came from the selenium-polluted streams in SE Idaho? That's a relevant fact that YOU omit, Rocky.

You seem to imply that selenium does not in fact cause any mutations-- just because one other non-Idaho fish also had a mutation.

But was there a higher rate of mutations in the fish that had been exposed to high levels of selenium?

Your post raises more questions than it answers, and your attempts to tar GYC are themselves misleading.

A scientist can probably cause a mutation with gla$$ of

milk if they wanted to.

Dishonest Advocacy

If we want to talk about Selenium why don't we mosey down to Central Valley California and see what is happening there. The YellowBelly group is obviously subscribing to any tactic is justified. Travel over the East Idaho, tour the mining will have a new appreciation for how thoughtful the mining is done, the economic impact of the endeavor and the myriad steps taken to protect things...not perfect...but a significant effort and commitment to doing things right. the the YellowBelly tree huggers would share that story.

Do they have Hitler's brain in a jar?


Apple users, run the Gig of RAM your PC needs to have and read the dumb tech white papers, wrinkle your forehead and buy more food and toilet paper with the difference. The internet is a piece of junk anyway and your cats know this.