Ecological impacts of water-quality problems have developed in the western United States resulting from the disposal of seleniferous agricultural wastewater in wetland areas. Overt effects of selenium toxicosis occurred at five areas where deformities of wild aquatic birds were similar to those first observed at Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge in the west-central San Joaquin Valley of California. These areas are: Tulare Lake Bed Area, California, Middle Green River Basin, Utah, Kandrick Reclamation Project Area, Wyoming, Sun River Basin, Montana, and Stillwater Wildlife Management Area, Nevada. Potential for ecological damage is indicated at six more sites in Oregon, Colorado, the Colorado/Kansas border, and South Dakota out of 16 areas in 11 states where biological tissue data were collected. This conclusion is based on the fact that selenium bioaccumulated in bird livers to median levels that had exceeded or were in the range associated with adverse reproductive effects. Selenium concentrations in samples of fish and bird eggs support these conclusions at a majority of these areas. Reason for concern is also given for the lower Colorado River Valley, although this is not exclusively a conclusion from these reconnaissance data. Biogeochemical conditions and the extent of selenium contamination of water, bottom sediment, and biota from which this assessment was made are given here. In a companion paper, the biogeochemical pathway postulated for selenium contamination to take place from natural geologic sources to aquatic wildlife is defined.
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Bioaccumulation of selenium from natural geologic sources in western states and its potential consequences