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Entries in pollution (39)


Settlement Reached for Rock River Fish Kill

Officials finally have reached a settlement with the railroad company responsible for a fish kill on the Rock River, one of the best smallmouth rivers in northern Illinois.

The Chicago, Central, and Pacific Railroad (CCPR) will pay $570,000 for alleged pollution violations during an ethanol spill nearly six years ago, as well as restoration of the fishery.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources will receive $270,000 to fund rehabilitation of two nature areas and another $$150,000 for general restoration in the affected area.

“This settlement ensures funding is in place to complete efforts to restore the natural areas damaged by the ethanol leak,” said Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Additionally, CCPR will pay $150,000 to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and Winnebago County to settle alleged violations of the state’s Environmental Protection Act.

“This derailment caused significant impacts to the air, land, and water, which required a thorough investigation, substantial research and extensive environmental remediation,” said IEPA Director Lisa Bonnett.

“The coordinated efforts of state agencies have completed the investigation and cleanup of the release. And this final consent order brings closure to one of Illinois’ largest environmental emergencies.”

Since the derailment, CCPR also has worked with IEPA to remediate the contaminated areas.

In June 2009, an explosion and fire following a train derailment killed one person, as well as caused the discharge of up to 75,000 gallons of an ethanol and gasoline mixture. It flowed onto the surrounding land and into a creek which flows into the Kishwaukee River, a tributary of Rock River.

Two days later, Sauk Valley residents noticed large numbers of smallmouth, sunfish, and other species washing up on shore along a 54-mile stretch from Grand Detour to Prophetstown. The fish died of suffocation, as the ethanol breakdown burned up dissolved oxygen.


Human Drugs Harming Fish Fertility

Prescription drugs intended for humans are affecting our fisheries in frightening ways. That's because they or their residues are flushed down toilets and into our waterways. Birth control pills are among the most concerning because they affect fertility in bass and other species.

For example, a recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey found that fish exposed to a synthetic hormone called 17a-ethinylestradiol, or EE2, produced offspring that struggled to fertilize eggs. The grandchildren of the originally exposed fish suffered a 30 percent decrease in their fertilization rate. The authors mulled the impact of what they discovered and decided it wasn't good.

"If those trends continued, the potential for declines in overall population numbers might be expected in future generations," said Ramji Bhandari, a University of Missouri assistant research professor and a visiting scientist at USGS. "These adverse outcomes, if shown in natural populations, could have negative impacts on fish inhabiting contaminated aquatic environments."

Read more here.

Additionally, check out this previous post at Activist Angler about minnows exhibiting bizarre behavior because of drugs.


Oil Spill's Impacts to Gulf Fish, Wildlife Revealed in NWF Report

Photos by Robert Montgomery

Five years following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, National Wildlife Federation  (NWF) scientists have compiled a report detailing how 20 types of fish and wildlife were impacted by the pollution that continued for 87 days.

NWF said, “The full extent of the spill’s impact may take years or even decades to unfold , but Five Years & Counting: Gulf Wildlife in the Aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster examines what the science tells us so far.”

The report does not suggest that fishing is not good or that it will not continue to be so.

Following are updates on two species:

The mahi-mahi, also known as dorado, is an economically important species in the northern Gulf.

Like many fish, mahi-mahi produce fertilized eggs that float in the upper layers of the water column. Mahi-mahi were spawning at the time of the oil spill and it is therefore likely that their eggs and larvae were exposed to oil during 2010.

Larval or juvenile exposure to a chemical in oil from the Deepwater Horizon has been shown to cause significant developmental impacts in a number of fish species. Similar research in mahi-mahi corroborates these findings. Embryonic or juvenile mahi-mahi briefly exposed to Deepwater Horizon oil were later unable to swim as fast as unexposed fish. The concentrations of oil in the study were designed to mimic conditions in affected areas of the Gulf.

This could translate into increased mortality, as slower fish would likely be less able to catch prey or avoid predators.

These studies could help explain “crude oil toxicity syndrome,” which has been observed in a number of fish species, across both fresh and saltwater habitats.

Additional research has recently been funded that will look further into impacts in redfish and mahi-mahi.

White and brown pelicans in Texas' Galveston Bay

American white pelicans nest in colonies of several hundred pairs on islands in remote inland lakes in North America, and they winter on the Pacific and Gulf Coasts.

Most white pelicans were in their northern breeding grounds at the time of the spill.

Two years after the spill, however, researchers found evidence of oil and dispersant in the eggs of white pelicans nesting in Minnesota. Scientists made this discovery at Marsh Lake, which is home to the largest colony of white pelicans in North America.

Petroleum compounds were present in 90 percent of the first batch of eggs tested. Nearly 80 percent contained the chemical dispersant used during the Gulf oil spill. White pelicans could have been contaminated while wintering in the Gulf, either through direct contact with remaining oil and dispersant or by eating contaminated fish.

Long-term increases in breeding pairs in Minnesota have occurred since 2004, but from 2011-2012 the breeding population has essentially stabilized.

Scientists from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources are continuing to investigate the impacts of these compounds, which have been known to cause cancer and birth defects and to disrupt embryo development in other species.

Contaminated eggs have been found in two other states as well. In 2012, staff at the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge collected eggs that failed to hatch from pelican colonies in the Iowa and Illinois portions of the refuge.

Population declines in migratory shorebirds and reduced breeding productivity may have an impact on ecosystems outside the Gulf region. Therefore it is important to link wintering and breeding locations for migrant species in order to fully understand the impacts of the Gulf oil disaster.


Still No Plan to Address Susquehanna's Sick Smallmouth Bass

Despite evidence that smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River are ill, state and federal officials refuse to categorize the waterway as “impaired.” And until it receives that designation, a plan can’t be developed to address the problem, which probably is pollution.

"We are absolutely certain that the smallmouth bass population of the middle Susquehanna River is sick, based upon the continuing presence of lesions and tumors in young and adult bass," said John Arway, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fishing and Boating Commission (PFBC).

"We've been collecting data since 2005, and believe that these fish health issues are causing a decline in the population, which means the river is sick. It is not necessary to know the exact source or cause of the sickness before the Commonwealth declares the river as impaired."

Yet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency supported the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in its decision to exclude nearly 100 miles of the Susquehanna in its 2014 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report.

In 2012, PFBC asked DEP to declare that section of the river from Sunbury to Holtwood Dam, near the Maryland border, as impaired. Both then and in 2014, DEP asserted that it lacked sufficient data to make that determination.

Now the earliest that the river could be declared impaired is 2016.


Arway recently spoke to the game and fisheries committee of the state House of Representatives about this issue. According to, here's what happened:

He also continued his call to have the Susquehanna River officially declared “impaired.” Once the premier flowing smallmouth bass fishery on the East Coast, it's been in decline in recent years, with smallmouth bass populations shrinking and more and more fish showing up sick, he said.

The commission, state Department of Environmental Protection and federal Environmental Protection Agency are doing a study to determine what's causing the problems, he said. A report is due by September.

After that, action needs to be taken, he said. Sick bass have been showing up since 2005, but no one's done anything but collect data since, Arway said.

An impaired designation would set the stage for a corrective plan, he added.

“We know the fish are sick. The (Department of Environmental Protection) admits the fish are sick. The question is, why are they sick and what are we going to do about it? And we haven't started down that road yet,” Arway said.


Despite Phase-Out, Pollutant Persists in Fish

Despite being phased out a dozen years ago, a persistent chemical formerly used in Scotchgard still contaminates bass and other fish in the Great Lakes, and urban rivers, according to a recent study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Researchers found perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) in all of the 157 fish sampled from nearshore waters in the Great Lakes and in 73 percent from 162 rivers.

“This just shows that PFOS still dominates,” said Craig Butt, a Duke University chemist. “Even though production stopped more than a decade ago, it’s still the main perfluorinated acid in the environment.”

PFOS is a suspected endocrine disruptor that has been linked to low birth weights, reduced immune system function in children, and high blood pressure during pregnancy. EPA hasn’t established a “safe” dose for humans, but Minnesota health officials recommend eating only one meal of fish per week if PFOS concentrations are 40 to 200 parts per billion, and only one meal per month if 200 to 800 parts per billion.

About 11 percent of the fish samples from U.S. rivers and 9 percent from the Great Lakes exceeded 40 parts per billion.

The 3M Company, a major manufacturer of PFOS, voluntarily stopped production in 2002, after scientists discovered the chemical was building up in water, wildlife, and people. PFOS and other perfluorinated compounds were used in oil- and water-resistant coatings for clothes, carpet, paper, cookware, and flame-retardant foams.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)