Opinion

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Guest Column

Is Selenium Harmful to Humans and Animals?

We need to know the safe levels for selenium for our waterways and air quality

We read your article, “Montana Border Towns Unify for Stronger Water Quality Monitoring,” with great interest!

First, is selenium harmful to humans? What is it? Does it affect the food we eat and our livestock?  Is it in the air?  We looked it up on the internet and there seems to be quite a controversy about selenium.

Moving on, we here in the North Fork of the Flathead have for many years (since 1984) been asking for a baseline study of the North Fork River. We have had responses from Glacier National Park (GNP), U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and others who all said that a study was done in 1984, but no one seems to be able to produce anything but hearsay about this subject. Further questions say that the study that was done in 1984 was non-conclusive and there was no further information.

Then it was stated by GNP that continued studies have been concluded but the information has never been quantified and put in layman’s terms so anyone can read and or understand it. Then we were told that the information was in scientific terms and the layman would not understand the information.

Do they think that no one but researchers are smart enough to understand (in layman’s terms) the quality (or failing of the quality) of the water?

We don’t know about the air quality in the Troy, Libby and Eureka area, but here in the North Fork of the Flathead, we have been asking about the air and water quality in our area as well. It seems that again we are given a smile and told that we would not understand. We have asked for open information from GNP and the USFS. Flathead County should be included in that request for information. The quality of the air and water affects us all. We know that dust from the road goes up and must come down somewhere – usually in the water. During wet times you can see the muddy water from the road going into the river and streams. During dry times you can see the effects of the chemicals in the vegetation along the roads.

GNP is claiming the glaciers are deteriorating, we all know that. But why? Besides climate change, if the dust in the air is the problem, what is in the dust? Selenium? Are we getting dust via the jet stream from China, as was stated by a person studying the glaciers in the past?

If we continue to use MagChloride on the road what effect is there going to be on the air and water? What is in the baseline study of the Air and Water that will lead to better methods of containing the particulates that rise from the ground and road to fall on the Glaciers and remain in the air or flow into the streams and rivers?  What is the effect of MagChloride to humans breathing the dust?

Is GNP or the USFS or anyone monitoring the air and water quality in the North Fork of the Flathead or in Lake Koocanusa? How long must the study go on before we know anything before it’s too late?

We need to know the safe levels for selenium for our waterways and air quality. All we seem to get from GNP, USFS and Flathead County is that the products they use are safe. Are there chemicals in the water that they are trying to hide or are they truly safe for humans, fish and wildlife?

Is there any state or national organization that monitors both the air and water quality? If so, who are they and where are they located. Will there be a report in “layman’s terms” that anyone who reads such a report can understand? How long does it take for a study to come out?

Lynn P. Ogle is a landowner in the North Fork of the Flathead.