andrew schneider investigates

July 14, 2008

Diseased water runs from lab

Filed under: Environmental health issues,EPA,Salmon,Seafood — Andrew Schneider @ 16:16

Those of us living along Puget Sound do a pretty good job of contaminating the water to the point that wild salmon have a difficult time of it, and we don’t need help from anyone else in making the Sound more precarious to our delectable finned friends.

Nevertheless, there are reports that large volumes of untreated water “laced with fish diseases” was discharged from a University of Victoria laboratory through Victoria’s questionable sewage system and into the water north of the sound.

According to Andrew MacLeod of TheTyee, the problem was only the latest at the lab used by Microtek Research and Development Ltd., a company that makes vaccines for the fish farming and hatchery industries.

The Tyee, a native word for king salmon above 30 pounds, is a daily online magazine covering British Columbia.

As part of a series of three investigative reports on this, the Web magazine collected a large number of university documents and internal e-mails to support its reporting. MacLeod wrote that Microtek, which is the largest user of the university’s aquatic facility, is involved in studying diseases and developing vaccines not only for salmon, but also tilapia and rainbow trout. The Tyee also reported the firm is studying diseased Atlantic salmon, and wrote that “at least one experiment involved sea lice, a parasite some salmon researchers say likely spreads from fish farms to wild fish.”

Several of the huge pens containing millions of faux salmon have been infected with sea lice in the past several months, according to Canadian environmentalists.

Documents discussed in the Web magazine’s reporting show university officials concerned about the safety of the pathogens from the fish lab being released into the waste water.

Tyee said Environment Canada was not notified by the spring release. I made a couple of calls to managers in the Seattle regional office of the U.S. EPA and uncovered no U.S. knowledge of the release.

However, the EPA officials responsible for keeping the sound clean have long been frustrated Victoria’s dumping of untreated sewage into water which flows into the Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

But, at last, our Canadian neighbors say they are finally “planning” to build a proper treatment system.

if you want to checkout The Tyee’s investigation, here’s a link to their site.

For more information on the company doing the research, here is a link to Microtek’s Web site.

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