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Rotenone application at T.J. O’Brien Lock and Dam

As the title of this blog entry suggests, the fist toxicant, rotenone, is going to be administered in a 2 mile stretch of the Little Calumet River downstream of the T.J. O’Brien Lock and Dam.  For those of you unfamiliar with the region:


View Larger Map

(Hopefully, my Geography friends will find this map a little more acceptable than my last one.  If not, a better map can be found here.)

Purpose of the rotenone treatment

The purpose of this piscicide treatment, which is being conducted by the IL Department of Natural Resources, is to determine if Asian Carp are in the waterway.  I am told that the locks will close on Thursday the 20th, at which point the canal will be cleared, nets will be put in the water, water samples will be collected and chemical barriers will be put in place to protect boats, marinas and other properties.  Rotenone treatment will begin on the afternoon of the 20th, and IDNR will collect dead fish and conduct monitoring from the 21st through the 25th or 26th.  Dead fish collected during the process will be sent to landfills.

What the public should be aware of

It is important that between May 20-27, 2010 the public should:

  • NOT Swim or recreate in the Little Calumet River
  • NOT Fish in the Little Calumet River
  • NOT Eat fish found in the Little Calumet River

The rotenone application process will not affect drinking water.

Press conference

The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee will be holding a press conference at 10 AM on Thursday, May 20 at Sunset Bay Marina, and more information can be found at the website: www.asiancarp.org.

What about Rotenone?

I did a little digging about the chemical and came up with an opinion piece from the research journal Bioscience which advocates for the use of Rotenone in fish and marine research.  The article is accessible to the non-expert, and here are a few points of interest I pulled from my read through:

  • The World Health Organization classifies rotenone as moderately hazardous (level 3 on a scale of 1 [most toxic] to 4 [least toxic]).  It has a low toxicity for birds and is moderately toxic to rats.  
  • Rotenone kills fish by blocking a cell’s ability to take in oxygen, and the chemical is easily taken up through the gills.  The chemical is not readily absorbed by human skin or the gastrointestinal tract, which is the primary reason why it is less toxic to humans.
  • Rotenone breaks down when exposed to sunlight and plenty of oxygen.  
  • The chemical is used in a variety of fisheries management practices, typically to eliminate undesirable species prior to seeding an area with target species.
  • Application as a piscicide is the only legal use of rotenone in the US.

What next?

We at the Task Force are paying close attention to the Asian Carp issue and are talking to a lot of people. As we learn more about the impact this invasive species (and subsequent management operations) has on the environment, recreation and residents, we’ll pass the information along to you.  If you have some information to share, please contact the SETF office.

Thanks to Nicole Kamins at Chicago Dept. of Environment and Greg Morris of the USCG Marine Safety Unit Chicago for providing me with information for this blog entry.

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