Fish deformed by selenium pollution
The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet is in the process of making the state’s water quality standard for selenium less stringent. Selenium is a metal that is especially toxic to fish, and is often released into streams through coal mining.
There will be a hearing before the Administrative Regulation Review Committee on Monday February 11, at 1 p.m. in Room 149 of the Capitol Annex, where, according to the Energy and Environment Cabinet website, the public “may” be able to speak out about this, but we still encourage concerned citizens to attend.
Selenium is a toxic nonmetal that is present in some coal and coal ash. Some of Kentucky’s mines release a lot of selenium because they are mining high-selenium coal seams, while others don’t release any.
Selenium is extremely toxic to fish in very low amounts because of its tendency to bioaccumulate. Selenium builds up in small fish and macro-invertebrates, and it accumulates even more in the fish that eat them. Toxic effects of selenium in fish include reproductive problems, deformities, damage to gills and organs, and death. The most obvious deformities are strangely curved spines, and “pop eye” — a buildup of fluid behind the eyes, causing them to bulge out.