Cooling Lake Fish Poisoned With Selenium
Gibson Lake closed but what about Turtle Creek?

By Don Jordan

posted 4/15/07


Near the end of March, Duke Energy announced it had closed its 3,000-acre cooling pond, called Gibson Lake, because fish in that lake had accumulated high levels of a toxic metal called selenium.

In the company's press release, Duke managers explained that the source of the contaminate was unknown but suggested that limestone rip-rap that lines the shoreline is a possible source. And, the company stressed, selenium is a natural occurring element.

It turns out that if Duke Energy's power plant is the most likely source of contamination and that the connection between selenium contamination in fish and coal-fired power plant wastes has been known for decades.

That's because of a U.S. Forest Service Study first published in 1985. A.D. Lemly, a forest service scientist sampled and monitored Belews Lake, a cooling pond at a power plant in North Carolina, for 20 years. He found that over time, selenium poisoned fish eggs, caused deformities and eventually killed off all but one tiny fish species. The selenium came from landfilled power plant ash. Another source of the poison is said to be airborne discharge from coal-fired power plants that falls to earth in higher concentrations nearer the plant.

Duke Energy did the right thing in closing fishing at Gibson Lake. Now, we have to wonder what might be in the fish at Turtle Creek Reservoir. Turtle Creek is another cooling pond for a power plant, Hoosier Energy's coal-fired plant at Merom in Sullivan Co. If the fish at Gibson Lake are loaded with poison, then it seems at least probable that Turtle Creek's fish have a similar problem.

For years, we have thanked these power companies for providing new public places to fish; and Turtle Creek has been a favorite of many local anglers over these years. It might be time to rethink our feelings. What I mean is, where else might these companies have deposited their ash? What other waters are poisoned?

While we wait for the government to protect us and for the power companies to tell us the whole truth, something that isn't going to happen in our lifetimes, you need to protect yourself and your family by not eating fish from these cooling ponds. If you have fish from them in your freezer, dispose of them as you would any other environmentally hazardous material.


One of the hazards of writing this column six days before it appears in your Sunday newspaper is the unpredictability of weather, especially during an Indiana April.

While this month was shaping up to be a morel hunting season to remember, that sudden descent into below freezing temperatures we experience over the past week-and-a-half knocked our morel season off track.

Most morel hunters were expecting to have seen peak yellow morel hunting start last week. That didn't happen, not even way down by the Ohio River.

Some morel hunters say the freeze might have ruined the entire season, but most are saying those "biguns" will still show up, just not as many of them. A couple of my Greene County morel hunting buddies say mid-April is usually peak. We were ahead of the schedule when the deep-freeze arrived.

All is not lost. There is great moisture content in the ground, and temperatures were to be back to the 60s this weekend. So, don't let the weather and rumors deter you from looking. It is going to be harder to see them as greenery erupts, but that's part of the deal with morel hunting.

Aside from the weather, some of the most discouraging news I've heard from shroomers lately is the growing problem of four-wheelers in the woods. Three hunters report finding favorite patches destroyed by four-wheeler tracks and another says someone built a huge campfire and stripped the ground bare at another hot spot.

All of these places were inside the Hoosier National Forest where four-wheelers aren't supposed to be allowed. The rules say no, but since the rules are not being enforced, we are back to the days we saw in the 1970s when off-road vehicles were ripping up the Hoosier at will.

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©Copyright 2007. Donald Lee Jordan