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The appearance of what are called “intersex fish” in Pennsylvania rivers has sparked a multi-year study by the PA Department of Environmental Protection. Small-mouth bass males have begun to produce eggs, and to exhibit markers in their blood of female hormones. In addition, young-of-the-year bass have been found with large white lesions and have been dying in large numbers.
The intersex fish are an indication of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the water. A U.S. Geological Survey studying samples from the Susquehanna, Delaware and Ohio river basins in Pennsylvania has found the greatest number and severity of the fish in the Susquehanna basin. The survey found that severity of the fish condition increased in areas just downstream of wastewater treatment plants, but not the number of fish affected.
Research fish biologist Vicki Blazer is the lead author of the new study. She believes the wastewater plants are contributing to the problem, but are not the only source of contaminants. She points to a correlation that was found between the amount of agricultural land use in the region and the concentration of intersex fish.
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