Living in New Jersey, I get razzed all the time about catching flounder with three eyes and smallmouths with two heads thanks to all the power plant particles and nuclear waste people assume infect my local waters. Well, joke’s on you. I just found this very interesting article on the website of U.S. News & World Report that claims fish caught near coal-fired power plants have lower mercury levels than fish living in more pristine waters. Ha!
According to the article, a team at North Carolina State University conducted this mercury-level study on largemouths and bluegills. One group of fish was captured within 10km of a coal-fired power plant, the other group lived in lakes outside the 10km radius. Tissue samples from the fish living closer to the plants showed mercury levels three times lower than the other group. Here’s why:
“The researchers think that the lower mercury levels near power plants are likely linked to selenium levels…Selenium, which is also emitted by coal-fired plants, is known to have an antagonistic relationship to mercury, though the specific mechanisms at play are not clearly defined. In other words, the selenium prevents fish from accumulating high levels of mercury, and we’re still working on the specifics of how that happens.”
Of course, too much selenium isn’t exactly a good thing either, though I still love the irony in the research team’s findings. Hey, winter will be here before you know it, and where I’m from, that’s power-plant fishin’ season. Nothing like a warm-water discharge and a little selenium to brighten a cold day. – JC