Energy. Environment. Economy.

Retired Doctor and Fisherman Says Black Spots on Fish Could Be Cancer

William Yingling has been fishing the same spot on the Susquehanna River for 35 years. But over the last 2 to 3 years, he says he’s caught small mouth bass with black spots. Yingling is also a retired family practitioner, and worries the black spots are melanomas caused by endocrine disrupters in the water. Yingling’s fishing hole is not far downstream from the Sunbury Generation  plant, one of 15 plants that had been taking frack water, and dumping it into the state’s rivers and streams. In one year, between 2009 and 2010, Sunbury treated 357,000 barrels of fracking waste water, and discharged it into the Susquehanna River. A year ago, the state asked plants like Sunbury to stop taking the waste water because the facilities did not have the capacity to properly treat the water.

Yingling doesn’t know if the frack water caused the black spots. He says there could be other sources, like pharmaceutical waste. He does think endocrine disrupters are the cause. Endocrine disrupters are chemicals that can send the wrong signals to the body’s cells, and interfere with a cell’s healthy development. But Yingling says no one seems to be doing the research to find out what exactly those black spots are.

“No one wants to do the science,” says Yingling. “It’s frustrating.”

So Yingling has written to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission asking them to do biopsies on those black spots.

Here’s an excerpt of his letter to Commissioner Robert Bachman.

These black lesions look very much like melanomas found in human disease. They also appear very much like fish melanomas seen in exotic species of fish that are being used in the medical research of human malignant melanomas. (see attached pictures)

In both fish and humans these skin cancers can be caused by exposure to both UVB light and chemicals.

In my opinion as a physician, the evidence points strongly to the fact that both the problems that Susquehanna River smallmouth have shown pertaining to intersexing and opportunistic infections because of immune incompetence are being caused by chemical endocrine disruptor pollution in the watershed.

Yingling’s biggest fear is that humans eating the fish, or drinking from the Susquehanna could also be at risk for cancer. The Fish and Boat Commission, however, says the fish are safe to eat. So far, Yingling hasn’t gotten any response from the Boat Commission regarding his request for biopsies. But he says his next step would be to send some of those afflicted fish to a private pathologist.


  • Alma Hasse

    Thank goodness for people like Dr. Yingling who obviously still give a damn.  Too bad we don’t see more caring bureaucrats– oh that’s right, they’re all vying for those lucrative industry jobs…

  • KeepTapWaterSafe

    Alma’s right – this is serious. The state should pick up the tab for expedited lab tests.    Liz R.

  • Mike Knapp

    Just talked with my dad (Jeff Knapp) about
    this. He’s the most published fishing writer in the state, writing for
    a slew of national, regional, state, and local magazines and
    newspapers. He’s published thousands of articles and also runs a
    fishing guide service.

    I highly doubt there’s anyone in the entire state
    (aside maybe from FBC staffers) that is more qualified to speak to this
    than he is. This is what he responded with to my e-mail asking about
    the fish spots:

    “I’ve seen those spots on Allegheny smb ever
    since I’ve fished the free flowing section of the river. Maybe one or
    two a year on average. At that time I asked the district pfbc biologist
    about. Same response stated in the news release they recently issued, ie
    not sure what causes it, but it doesn’t appear to affect the fish (fish
    appears healthy). And it’s not a hazard to eat em. I’ve seen the same
    spots on bass from Erie and Conneaut. Sent from my Verizon Wireless

    • Sjandat3

      that’s great Mike..we can serve them all up for you and your dad…or … like the rest of the gasholes in this you say things are safe..and then refuse to drink or eat your buddy Mike Krancer?????  He wouldn’t drink Dimock’s Water..but he claimed it was safe…whoooo hoo…fish fry for the Mikes!

      • Mike Knapp

        I’ve been eating fish out of the river my whole life.  Grew up swimming in it too! Still alive, kicking, and drilling gas wells. There’s three gas wells on my property, and I have well water.  There’s a compressor station on the next property over.  Do you want to come down to Western PA and see for yourself?  Or are you like the rest of the fractivist twits that think their civic duty to oppose gas drilling is satisfied by making snarky comments on internet blogs to people they don’t know the first thing about?

        My dad send this pic along of a fish he caught THIS AFTERNOON in the upper Allegheny over 100 miles from the Susquehanna, same as he’s been catching for years and years.  Long before the Marcellus shale came along. 

        • Valerie Michelle Karnes

          We have been dumping serious amounts of toxins for a couple centuries. Like increase in human cancers and diseases, most all animals have been victim to our destructive rampage on all resources. It all cycles through the earth constantly so go get a cat-scan or MRI because many of us will be affected in some way or another. For now we are smart enough to make medical discoveries fast enough to prolong lives of people who get cancer or other life threatening diseases potentially related to pollution use and release of toxins in air, water, and on land. Meanwhile, the importance of all life on earth is forgotten and our essential interdependence between all life, is completely ruptured and ravaged. All disease in all life has increased due to negative human impact and unsustainability.

  • Mike Knapp

     This phenomena has been happening for decades all over the region, in areas where there is no drilling and no discharge of any drilling waste water.  Stop trying to turn small mouthed bass into red herring.

  • Cdeberry

    Endocrine disruptors get into water from all sorts of discharge – sewage, agricultural runoff (think Atrazine), as well as frack water (and illegal dumping of frack water). ALL of this is a cause for grave concern. Especially if there is an increase in incidence, or its occuring in a new location.

    • Sjandat

      there is no illegal dumping of frack water into the rivers, streems or creeks… since there is no clean water act to charge them with…..thank you President Bush and VP DICK Chaney….

  • Richard Paone

    Tiny black spots can be encysted parasites; intermediate stages of a worm that would complete its life-cycle in a warm-blooded animal that eats its host.  If so, then there would be no reason to blame fracking.  Hopefully a necropsy sorts this out before it becomes fodder for fracking-bashing.

  • JeanneKCC

    Where’s the science here?  We can suppose and guess all we want, but without scientific investigation, the discussion is pretty meaningless.

  • Valerie Michelle Karnes

    We always wait until it is too late; we poison ourselves poisoning our only planet. Stupid people never learn its too late now. It will be the cause of some human illness in the future. The earth requires all natural resources to be in an equilibrium to remain clean and constant. If you poison the air you are at the same time poisoning the water and land. It all cycles: If one dumps toxic chemicals those toxins will dilute and mix in with all the other disgusting pollution we release into our life source. People like to remain blind and say who cares I wont be here by the time it takes effect. That is pathetic.

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