With the Elk River in the news again, it seems timely to publish this selenium and cutthroat trout poster. Because selenium is invisible, it can be difficult to acknowledge and understand its impacts. This poster is a visual representation of published science on selenium impacts and selenium data collected from fish in the Elk River system and submitted in environmental assessment applications. All data is publicly available online through the BC Environmental Assessment Office. (For example, Line Creek II documents). I’ve listed references at the bottom of the poster if you’d like to read the source materials.
It’s worth noting that this data was collected when selenium levels in the river system were below the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan (EVWQP) selenium targets and that functioning selenium treatment facilities at Line Creek and Fording River Operations are critical to keep selenium at or below the EVWQP target levels. If that technology proves unfeasible, there is no plan B.
Also, notice the steep dive in survival that happens somewhere between 22 and 32 ug/g of selenium in the eggs. The exact concentration is unknown. But through computer modelling of the complex movement of selenium from water to periphyton to invertebrates to fish, combined with computer modelling to estimate the selenium levels that cause fish to die, the EVWQP targets aim to keep fish mortality to a maximum of 20%. This calculation has an unknown error factor which, given the high cost of getting it wrong, is a legitimate cause for concern.
You can download the .pdf of the poster here: How-selenium-affects-cutthroat-trout
If you do use it, please give me credit, maybe link to my website or Twitter. And if you’d like to see something else added to the poster, something changed for clarity, please email or DM me.