Meeting on Selenium in the Kootenai River

Continued from Page 1

Changes in the aquaculture of the Kootenai, Dr. Young explained, began with logging and mining ventures in the late 1800’s. The aggressive development that followed in the area, culminating with the completion of the Libby Dam in 1974, resulted in significant loss of wetland and build up of toxins within the waters. The fishery outside of Bonners Ferry, which opened in 1989, has actively been working along with the Confederated Kootenai Tribes to re-establish wetlands within the area of the Kootenai River between Bonners Ferry and the Canadian border,  as well as to increase the number of burbot and sturgeon in these waters.

Egg/ovary levels for Selenium in fish, according to the EPA, should not exceed 15.1 milligram per kilogram (dry weight), however a U.S. Geologic Survey study of the Moyie confluence found that in mountain whitefish this standard was exceeded. Even some of the burbot that have been hatched at the fishery and released into the wild within the last 3 years have been found to already exceed standards. In fish like sturgeon, which can live up to 100 years in healthy environments, the accumulated levels are expected to continue to rise. Kootenai Tribal Data shows that Selenium in the water between Libby Dam and Kootenai Lake in British Columbia  ranges from 0.8-1.2 micrograms per liter, however egg/ovary levels generally exceed the 15.1 milligram per kilogram level. These findings validate the modeling done and support the 0.8 microgram per liter standard.

Teck Resources, along with representatives from Lincoln County, have appealed to have the new standard re-evaluated, declaring the limit unobtainable.

Those opposed to the standard consider the studies used to determine the new level to be rushed and manipulated by environmentalists to decrease future industry in the area. On the other hand, many consider the number of entities involved and the more than 6 years of scientific study to be trustworthy and more than adequate scientifically.

For many individuals who live in the area, recreating and fishing in the involved waters, the issue is a more personal one. What is the danger to me and my loved ones?

What is Selenium? Selenium is an element, number 34 on the Periodic Table, and a trace mineral for the human body that is required only in very small amounts. It is required for the structure of certain proteins and the function of a group of enzymes that help to make DNA. These enzymes help protect  against cellular damage and infection, and are also involved in reproduction and the metabolism of thyroid hormones. Most of the selenium in the body is found either in the thyroid gland or stored in muscle tissue. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is 55 micrograms daily for adults. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for adults is 400 micrograms per day. This is the maximum daily intake unlikely to cause harmful effects. Food sources of selenium differ by region. Plants take up selenium from the soil and will contain more in areas where the soil has high levels of selenium. In turn, animals that eat these plants may become good sources of selenium. Seafoods, organ meats, and Brazil nuts have the highest content, but most Americans can obtain their RDA of selenium from usual staples such as bread, cereals,  poultry, red meat, and eggs. The margin between helpful levels and harmful levels, however, is rather small.

Low levels of Selenium intake are associated with a form of cardiomyopathy, or disease of the heart muscle, known as Keshan Disease. On the other hand, Selenium toxicity can cause loss of hair or nails, nausea, diarrhea, skin rashes, fatigue, lightheadedness, and muscle tenderness or tremor. The most frequent cause of Selenium toxicity in humans worldwide is the Brazil nut, which can contain up to 95 micrograms. There are a number of studies that look at chronic Selenium toxicity, however, many were done over 40 years ago and have high levels of bias, meaning they aren’t very sound scientifically. There have been several studies with conflicting results as to the long-term effects and some of these involved very high intakes in the hundreds or thousands of micrograms per day. Another issue confounding the effect of selenium exposure is that different chemical forms of selenium seem to have differing levels of effect. This was also shown in fish during the initial attempts at treating wastewater.

Most toxicity comes from disposal of fossil fuel waste and agricultural irrigation of arid soils that are high in selenium content. This can easily result in increased water-borne concentrations and build-up of selenium in aquatic organisms that can then lead to bio-accumulation in other organisms further up the food chain as noted above. There is currently no reason for concern in eating fish from Lake Koocanusa or the Kootenai River in moderation and no warnings have been posted against doing so. Those within the Elk Valley where water content is extremely high do run the risk of potential toxicity from just drinking the water. The goal is to restore biodiversity to the waters of the Kootenai and protect those living along its shores from ever having to face those dangers.

By Karen Morrissette, The Montanian

We’re Off to See the

Wizard… Opening Night is March 31

As Dorothy is whisked out of Kansas by a horrific tornado, the audience will follow her trek to “get back home”.  She will be accompanied by her new three friends and faithful dog, little Toto.  *Toto is brilliantly played by Amy’s 14-year -old Chihuahua, Tallulah.  The quartet of seekers encounters the Wicked Witch who is trying to retrieve Dorothy’s ruby red slippers which slows down their journey along the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City where Dorothy is hoping for help from the wise but ominous Wizard of Oz!

Over the past two years, a few cast members have changed but the original guest director, Jill Olson, has faithfully returned to complete her task.  It is to be noted that she has held true to this commitment even though she now lives in Western Washington.  For two months, she has relocated back to Libby to guide this play with its Munchkins, heroine and heroes, villains with some scary monkeys to a successful conclusion.

Lorraine Braun, Libby High School choir director, with an orchestra of dedicated, talented musicians, provides the melodious sounds we have grown so fond of over the years: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, “The Wicked Witch is Dead” and “We’re Off to See the Wizard” to name a few of the time-honored tunes.

So – Follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Memorial Events Center opening night Thursday, March 31 at 7:00 p.m.  If that date isn’t convenient – there will be three more performances: Friday, April 1  and Saturday, April 2also at 7:00 pm.  If you have wee ones who can’t stay up for any of the three evening performances, there will be a special matinee Sunday, April 3 at 3:00 pm.  This production of The Wizard of Oz is in partnership with the Kootenai Heritage Council and Lincoln County Credit Union.

Tickets are $15 for Adults and $10 for Kids, 12 & under.  Tickets are available at these locations:  ~ Lincoln County Credit Union ~ Homesteaders ~ Chamber of  Commerce ~ The Printing Press ~ Kootenai Heritage Council or Steve Lethrud by calling 406-283-1491.

Mark your calendar and support the performing arts in Libby – we have a remarkable amount of talent in our community who love to share their love of the theater with you.  You are invited to enjoy an evening, or afternoon, of pure delightful entertainment as you help Dorothy get back home to Kansas!

Submitted by Patty Rambo