On Thursday night Jon Stewart's The Daily Show on the Comedy Channel aired a segment about the selenium-poisoning of Idaho rivers by the J.R. Simplot mining and agribusiness goliath. The EPA was blistered for endorsing a report by the Simplot company which wants to increase selenium limits in creeks and streams that receive mining wastes, even though it's already causing two-headed trout and other fish deformities. Unmentioned in the Daily Show segment was the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which released a scathing review of the flawed Simplot report, mentioned favorably in a New York Times story, but refused to let its top selenium scientist speak to the Daily Show. You can watch the Daily Show segment here: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-june-14-2012/a-simple-plot READ MORE »
In my nearly 30 years covering pollution issues at National Wildlife Refuges, I have come across several courageous field level employees of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and a few cowards in management positions, managers who are afraid of politicians, polluters, and their own shadows. A good example is the debacle at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge in the early 1980s, where toxic selenium-tainted agricultural waste water from the Westlands Water District polluted the food chain in evaporation ponds at the Merced County "refuge," a supposed haven for migratory ducks and birds, triggering deformities and reproductive failure. There were heroes like biologist Felix Smith - who leaked the Kesterson findings to Fresno Bee reporter Deborah Blum, and there were cowards in the Portland regional office who participated in a cover-up to delay release of the Kesterson findings. READ MORE »
Remember how selenium ravaged the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge in Central California nearly 30 years ago? Selenium is a trace element that is a micronutrient but can also be lethal at slightly higher doses than needed for nutritional necessity. It is widespread in the soils of the western San Joaquin Valley but is liberated from the soil by irrigation, which acts as a solvent. Farm drainage water containing poisonous levels of selenium was funnelled to evaporation ponds at Kesterson three decades ago and quickly bio-concentrated as it moved up the food chain, nearly wiping out the Refuge's bird population and triggering grotesque deformities in bird embryos. Now UC Davis researchers think they found a link between declines in bee populations and selenium. You can read about it here: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/chain-reaction-toxic-soil-kills-bees-threatens-food-production-20120416-1x2we.html. Or read the actual report here: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0034137. READ MORE »
The news has broken that selenium from phosphate mining in Idaho has triggered grotesque mutations in fish in Idaho creeks, notably two-headed fish. This story was first broken by Patrick Porgans, a California State Water Resources Control Board watchdog and top notch investigator. He had been sitting on the story for months in order to protect his sources. Porgan's detailed report can be found at his website: www.planetarysolutionaires.org.
A Reuters News Service article on the two-headed fish, reprinted at the Scientific American magazine website, can also be found at https://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=idaho-mine-understates-impact-on-fi READ MORE »
Is another selenium-poisoned wildlife disaster like that which occurred at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge in Merced County in the 1980s going to occur again? READ AN ARTICLE HERE about the latest United States Geological Survey report which indicates more problems for western San Joaquin Valley agriculture. CLICK HERE for the USGS report. READ MORE »