Male bass in Potomac River laying eggs

Male bass in the South Branch of the Potomac River in West Virginia are laying eggs. This is not behavior that people in the know typically expect from male bass. While researchers assume that pollutants of some sort are responsible, this particular stretch of the Potomac does well on the usual water-quality tests. “It’s counterintuitive to think we would have this type of problem out there,” said Patrick Campbell of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. The culprit may be “emerging contaminants” — caffeine, hormones, prescription drugs, endocrine disruptors — that are not typically tested for, either in river water or drinking water. The U.S. EPA has set no standards for these pollutants, saying more research is necessary. Scientists have only recently developed equipment sensitive enough to detect them. Says researcher Vicki S. Blazer, “We really don’t know what’s going on.”