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Stormwater Runoff Pollutes Potomac, Believed to Cause Mutations in Fish

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#1 Guest_nativeplanter_*

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 03:10 PM

I haven't yet seen the report this article references, but it is an interesting topic for sure.


#2 Guest_fundulus_*

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 03:51 PM

The "mutations" the article refers to are intersex fish, I would assume feminized males. This isn't really a mutation in the sense of altered genetic function but more like a poisoning by estrogenic compounds. The big fun is that there are probably several hundred compounds found in treated sewage that are at least mildly estrogenic, besides the real humdingers like ethinyl estradiol, the active ingredient in birth control pills that is passed by women with urine. I predict that more intersex fish problems will be found in other North American rivers in the near future.

#3 Guest_nativeplanter_*

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 04:06 PM

I predict that more intersex fish problems will be found in other North American rivers in the near future.

I'm pretty sure similar findings have been found elsewhere, but right now I can't remember where those locations are. Pretty sure there is more than one other.

It seems to me that there are likely other compounds in effluent and stormwater to affect fish in small concentrations that we do not yet pay attention to. Hormone-like chemicals especially can have considerable effects on physiology in small concentrations. I think we only hear about feminized fish because it is more exciting in the news.

Just thought that this subject is excellent food for thought for our group - the effect of effluent and stormwater on the physiology of aquatic organisms.

#4 Guest_fundulus_*

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 04:42 PM

There's already a substantial scientific literature on intersex fish, focusing on the effects of treated sewage effluents that tend to have a strongly estrogenic effect. The guy who has been doing this work the longest is John Sumpter at Brunel University in Uxbridge, England. Fishes known to show strong feminization include roach, gudgeon and brown trout. The one case I can think of involving masculinization of female fish involved Gambusia in the Florida panhandle in a creek that received effluent from a paper mill, published in Copeia in 1983 (I think) and authored in part by Mike Howell. Fish are often living in a soup of very low concentration synthetic compounds, often measurable in the parts per billion or even parts per trillion. But this is plenty if a compound mimics a steroid hormone or a pheromone; fish can smell pheromones at concentrations of 10(-13) M, and one synthetic progesterone, medroxyprogesterone (the active ingredient in the contraceptive DepoProvera) is often detected in sewage effluent at 5 x 10(-11) M. This pollution is already a problem, even if most people don't know it yet.

#5 Guest_ashtonmj_*

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 07:58 PM

We actually sample a handful of sites every year to monitor stream conditions below CAFO's and provide fish (LMB and redbreasts) for researchers at the University of Maryland. Quite different than WWTP effluent but still see intersex. There have been some recent presentations on intersex smallmouth in the Potomac at the state and regional AFS level. I believe the work is being done at the WV Coop Fishery Unit, USGS, MDNR, ORSANCO, and a little carry over at the TN Coop Fishery Unit. If you look at the SDAFS website you can see the abstracts for the last two years.

The first I ever heard about it outside of literature was near Denver several years ago.

#6 Guest_Newt_*

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Posted 24 November 2008 - 07:48 PM

There's been a good bit of work on feminization in frogs and 'gators too. Even some on humans- a study a few years back found dramatically lower sperm counts in rural men in MO, presumably due to exposure to agricultural chemicals.

#7 Guest_jimjim_*

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Posted 24 November 2008 - 07:57 PM

I lived in Anne Arundal County back in the early fifties. Believe me the Potomac was so poluted then
you could almost walk on it. With that may years of pollution I imagine there are/were all sorts of
strange creatures long before that study was done...Jim

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