[Pharmwaste] Effluent tipping scales on fish gender - CO

Tenace, Laurie Laurie.Tenace at dep.state.fl.us
Thu Sep 7 10:34:08 EDT 2006

See the attached picture for more detail

Effluent tipping scales on fish gender 
A landmark study has found that wastewater from sewage-treatment plants in
Boulder and Denver is causing gender deformities in suckers living
By Katy Human 
Denver Post Staff Writer 

Wastewater pouring from sewage-treatment plants in Boulder and Denver is
bending the gender of fish living downstream, a new study has found. 

Some of these strangely sexed sucker fish have male and female organs, and
others have sexual deformities, according to a study by University of
Colorado researchers. 

"It's sort of a sentinel for us," said David Norris, a CU biologist and an
author of the report. "Every major city in the Western U.S. is looking at

The paper, published this month in the journal Comparative Biochemistry and
Physiology, is the first peer-reviewed study documenting the reproductive
problems of fish downstream from Colorado wastewater-treatment plants. 

Similarly odd fish have been found in England and in the Potomac River in
Washington, D.C., Environmental Protection Agency officials said. 

Although gender-deformed fish have been found in Front Range streams in the
past few years, skeptics argued that any number of pollution sources - even
natural effects - could be the cause. 

The CU scientists now say they've confirmed that wastewater effluent is to

The new results raise concern about whether the stuff people dump down drains
- from urine to cleaning products to cosmetics and medicines - can alter the
hormonal systems of other animals, researchers said. 

Healthy male minnows placed in diluted effluent from Boulder's treatment
plant stopped making sperm within two weeks, said Alan Vajda, a CU research
associate and another author of the new report. 

Many Colorado cities and towns pull drinking water from creeks downstream of
wastewater-treatment plants. 

There is, however, no evidence yet that the so-called endocrine-disrupting
chemicals found in wastewater are concentrated enough to cause significant
problems in people, Norris said. 

People are bigger than fish, he said, and don't live in water. 

"The problem is, that's not the only source of this type 



of chemical," Norris said. "It's in our food, it's in our plastics, it's in
pesticides. ... We're being bombarded all the time." 
People eating fish probably aren't at risk of harmful exposure, said Larry
Barber, a researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey in Boulder. 

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are at low levels in sucker fillets, Barber

Patti Tyler, science adviser for the EPA's Denver office, said, "We're still
not clear about ... whether exposure to these compounds has effects on

The CU research team has been given about $800,000 in EPA grants to continue
investigating the strange fish maladies downstream from state
wastewater-treatment plants, Vajda said. 

Other EPA offices are also funding similar work around the country on
endocrine-disrupting chemicals in waterways, Tyler said. 

Also, the EPA has recommended limits for some of the chemicals, such as the
nonylphenols found in cleaning products. 

Boulder wastewater-plant officials cooperated with the research, helping set
up a mobile laboratory on site. 

"It's valuable information not only for Boulder, but for other people in this
industry," said Floyd Bebler, the city's wastewater coordinator. "It's
happening all over, especially in the effluent-dominated streams ... of the

Laurie J. Tenace
Environmental Specialist
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
2600 Blair Stone Road, MS 4555
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2400
PH: (850) 245-8759
FAX: (850) 245-8811
Laurie.Tenace at dep.state.fl.us  
view our mercury web pages at: 

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