Environmental Group Wants Study of Intersex Fish
An environmental group wants Congress to fund research of intersex fish in the Potomac River.
The Potomac Conservancy has presented a petition to Virginia Congressman Jim Moran.
Belin: Scientists found that over eighty percent of the male bass have female characteristics, including eggs, in the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers.
Conservancy President Hedrick Belin.
Belin: We launched the Fish Mystery campaign in April, and we're pleased with the response. Over 5000 individuals have signed our fish mystery petition over a two-month period this summer.
The petition, among other things, calls for a study of the effects of endocrine-disrupting compounds on human health.
Belin: And so as a result, the people that signed this petition to Congress called for action on several different fronts, including additional funding for research into both what's causing this intersex fish and also research into any possible relationships on human health.
The Conservancy is working with the Environmental Health Science Division of The National Institutes of Health. The intersex fish, Beeland said, raise questions about the things that end up in the river and finally, the Chesapeake Bay.
Belin: We believe we should be taking steps to prevent these toxic chemicals from mixing with water in the first place, because currently, there isn't the technology to filter some of these chemicals out of the water supply, and so the petition also calls on Congress to investigate the effectiveness of expanding drug take-back programs in order to keep unused or expired medications from being washed down the drain.
Nearly five and a half million people in the Washington, DC, metro area get their drinking water from the Potomac River, Belin noted. Because the intersex fish phenomena is not limited to the Potomac and Shenandoah, he added:
Belin: Findings, the results, could be applied and used elsewhere around the country, so that's a pretty cost-effective way to get some answers that aren't unique or aren't limited just to this, you know, Virginia, Maryland, DC locations.
The intersex fish were found by accident during the study of a fish kill.
Belin: When they were doing some research to determine why the fish had been killed, they came across these male bass that had female traits, including eggs.
The Potomac River, Belin said, is considered 'challenged.' He noted areas that aren't safe for humans to swim and others where it's not advisable to eat the fish.
Belin: There have been some positive developments over the last several decades, but there clearly is still a lot of work to be done before we have a truly healthy, vibrant Potomac River.
Growth in the areas around the Potomac has been tremendous over the past several decades, and has had a negative impact on the health of the river.
Belin: The DC metro area is projected, demographers are projecting that the area will be adding another two million people by the next 20 to 25 years, so we need to look at what kinds of steps can be taken, both with additional building of new structures as well as the redevelopment of existing structures to reduce the amount of pollution coming off of roads and rooftops in urban and suburban areas.
Go to fishmystery.com to learn more about the intersex fish in the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers and about the Potomac Conservancy.
John Ogle, WCVE News