Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mountaintop mining poisons fish

Date:
March 1, 2010
Source:
Wake Forest University
Summary:
Dead and deformed fish indicate selenium pollution from mountaintop coal mining is causing permanent damage to the environment and poses serious health risks, says a biologist.

Dead and deformed fish indicate selenium pollution from mountaintop coal mining is causing permanent damage to the environment and poses serious health risks, says a Wake Forest University biologist who will brief U.S. Senators on his research Feb. 23.

Related Articles


Selenium pollution affects fish first, so they are the best barometer for understanding the threat to ecosystems downstream from mountaintop removal mining operations, says Dennis Lemly, research professor of biology, who advocates a ban on the process.

"We're killing fish right now with selenium pollution from mountaintop removal mining," says Lemly. Toxic levels of selenium were found in 73 of 78 stream samples. The threat is expanding as use of this destructive process expands. Once these ecosystems are polluted, damage to the environment is permanent."

Mountaintop removal mining, which has doubled in the past eight years, blasts the top off a mountain and pushes the excess rock to the neighboring valley to get to the coal beneath. Over the past two decades, mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia has buried more than 1,000 miles of streams. Most common in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky, this type of mining causes toxic levels of selenium to leach into rivers and streams.

Lemly, who supports tougher regulations on the disposal of coal waste, was part of a team of 12 ecologists and engineers who provided the first comprehensive analysis of damage done by mountaintop removal mining. He and his colleagues will also share their scientific findings Feb. 23 with representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency and the President's Council on Environmental Quality.

High levels of selenium threaten fish survival and reproduction. If they do reproduce, contaminated fish have offspring with serious birth defects. Lemly has found that newly hatched fish have crooked spines and deformed heads due to high levels of selenium. They cannot survive and reproduction will fail, he says. He warns the fish population could be wiped out.

"Once in the aquatic environment, waterborne selenium can enter the food chain and reach levels that are toxic to fish and wildlife," Lemly wrote in the briefing he prepared.

Lemly has studied West Virginia's Mud River Reservoir, which was polluted with selenium released from a mountaintop removal coal mining operation. Fifty to 60 percent of young fish were deformed because of high concentrations of selenium. Selenium levels in fish caught in some of West Virginia's rivers are more than twice what is considered safe for human consumption. Humans need to absorb certain amounts of selenium daily, but extremely high concentrations of selenium can cause reproductive failure and birth defects.

"I specialize in fish, but that is only one part of the overall picture," Lemly says, "Public health is also an issue with mountaintop removal mining."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wake Forest University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Wake Forest University. "Mountaintop mining poisons fish." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 March 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100226214742.htm>.
Wake Forest University. (2010, March 1). Mountaintop mining poisons fish. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100226214742.htm
Wake Forest University. "Mountaintop mining poisons fish." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100226214742.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) The new year is coming and nothing will energize you more for 2015 than protein-filled foods. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) gives his favorite high protein foods that will help you build muscle, lose fat and have endless energy. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins