Selenium poisoning is shocking local scientists… again. Newly published studies found deformities in 80 percent of young Sacramento splittail minnow, a threatened fish found in the Sacramento River. The scientists attribute these spinal malformations to selenium pollution, similar to the deformities discovered at Kesterson during the 1980s.
Selenium pollution in the Delta and Bay comes from two main sources: agricultural runoff and the Bay Area’s oil refineries, which release selenium as a toxic by-product of the refining process.
For years, Big Oil and Big Ag have been fighting to block Baykeeper's efforts to reel in selenium pollution.
But now, thanks to the recent selenium studies on the splittail, Baykeeper might have an unlikely new tool in our arsenal to fight toxic selenium pollution. Believe it or not, it's fish ears, which contain a record that scientists can use to track the selenium stored up in the fish's body.
Thanks to the damning chemical data found in fish ears, Baykeeper's advocates may now have new science-based evidence to hold the oil refineries accountable.
Read more about selenium pollution in the Delta and Bay.
Photo of a Sacramento splittail by USFWS Pacific Southwest Region