CORVALLIS - A task force including representatives of Oregon State University, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Oregon Health Division, and the Linn County Health Department has been formed to determine why trout at an OSU research site have such a high rate of liver cancer.

The OSU fish research laboratory, located east of Corvallis in Linn County, reported rates of cancer in rainbow trout that were 100 times higher than normal. Water for the lab is pumped into the facility from wells.

Researchers will begin analyzing tissue samples from the fish to see if they can determine whether the toxicity can be linked to a chemical contaminant, according to Larry Curtis, head of the Department of Molecular and Environmental Toxicology at OSU and chair of the multi-agency task force.

The DEQ will begin regularly testing the water in hope of identifying the contaminant. It may take a series of heavy rainfalls to trigger any potential problem with the water supply, however, Curtis said. "We have begun the process of trying to identify what is causing these high cancer rates in the fish," Curtis said. "It is hard to say how long it will take, especially if the contamination is occurs periodically."

Curtis said researchers from OSU and the other agencies are exploring the development of a continuous, in-line water monitoring system for the research facility's wells.

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Larry Curtis, 541-737-3791