A two-headed trout was found in a polluted creek in Idaho, the New York Times reported Wednesday. Other fish in that same creek had deformed fins, faces and eggs. “In my research, I have seen lots of malformed baby fish, but never one with two heads,” an aquatic toxicology professor told the Times.
The creek is near the Smoky Canyon mining site operated by the J. R. Simplot Company, which was the first to spot the trout. The company mentioned the trout in a safety report, but still determined that the creek did not contain harmful pollution. J.R. Simplot said in the report that it would be safe to allow more selenium in the creek than is currently permitted under regulatory guidelines. Selenium, a byproduct of mining, is toxic to egg-bearing animals like fish and birds.
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The Environmental Protection Agency is currently reviewing selenium rules, the Times said. But the government agency had descriped J.R. Simplot's research as "comprehensive” in a draft review, angering environmental experts.
Another government agency disagrees with the EPA's assessment. A report from the US Fish and Wildlife Service said J.R Simplot's research was actually inaccurate and grossly underestimated the danger that selenium poses to fish. As many as 70 percent of fish in the creek will be deformed due to the pollution, experts told the Times.
Scientists have been sounding alarms about selenium for years. In the 1980s, fish and birds in a California reservoir polluted with selenium runoff had missing eyes and feet, deformed beaks and even protruding brains, the Times said. In 2010, a scientist warned that the fish population near a mountantop coal mining site would eventually be "wiped out" from selenium pollution, Science Daily reported.