West Virginia has become the first state to post a
statewide advisory against eating fish from all state
waters. Mercury has contaminated all the state’s waterways
and the fish in them, including the Potomac, and both
dioxins and PCBs are also cited in the West Virginia warning.
According to the Associated Press, the fish consumption
“advisory” came after a two-year West Virginia University
study of fish throughout the state.
The state now joins surrounding states which had
already issued mercury contamination warnings.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
mercury fact sheet, freshwater fish average 0.13 parts
per million of mercury.
Larger fish, especially major freshwater predators
like largemouth bass, walleye, trout and salmon, have
a lot more mercury in them, like five or six times more.
Last summer, EPA announced results of a nationwide
fish sampling project in which every fish tested was contaminated
with mercury. Indiana
was among the states tested.
Indiana’s consumption advisory does not reflect the
universal nature of mercury contamination found by the
feds, but it does single out numerous lakes, reservoirs and streams
mercury in our backyards:
(at Glendale Fish & Wildlife Area).
Indiana’s advisory says bluegill, redear sunfish
and warmouth are safe to eat if they are under seven to
*Griffy Lake on Bloomington’s
north side has some really hot largemouth.
The State Dept. of Health says don’t eat more than
one largemouth a month if it is 11 inches long or longer.
*Lake Lemon in northern Monroe
County has hot catfish, but they are loaded with
PCBs, not just mercury. One meal of
20 inch or over flathead a month is the limit.
Unlimited consumption of bluegill and crappie up 7 to
9 inches respectively is stated.
Reservoir lists bluegill up to seven inches and
carp up to 21 inches as safe to eat any time, as much
as you want. Curiously
no warning on the lake’s major predators has been posted
yet. If bluegill over 7 inches (try to find one
in Mornoe) are contaminated, it only stands to reason
than there must be at least some contamination in largemouth
bass, walleye and hybrid white-stripped bass.
*Patoka Reservoir in
Orange and Dubois counties has both PCBs and Mercury,
but warnings are posted only for bluegill over 6 inches
and carp over 23 inches.
*Clear Creek and Salt Creek
(below the Monroe dam) are both loaded with PCBs,
and catfish in Bean Blossom Creek
are on the one meal a month list.
All species in Salt Creek from above Williams dam
to Salt Creek’s confluence with Clear Creek are in Indiana’s
highest or most contaminated category—do not eat any of
The list of contaminated Indiana streams is a long
one. It is so
long that you may as well say there isn’t a stream in
the state free of mercury and PCBs.
to EPA's 1999 National Emissions Inventory, coal-fired
electric power plants are the largest source of human-caused
mercury air emissions in the U.S. Power plants account
for about 40 percent of total U.S. (about 48 tons in 2002)
manmade mercury emissions. Other large sources are industrial
boilers (about 10 percent of U.S. mercury emissions),
burning hazardous waste (about 5 percent), and chlorine
production (also about 5%).
Public waste incinerators are also included. The rest comes from discarded batteries, paints containing mercury
and a combination of thousands of small sources.
what’s the big deal about mercury?
Mercury attacks the human nervous system, much
in the same way a disease like syphilis does.
People exposed to high doses also suffer heart
pass mercury along to their children. Most medical literature notes that children exposed to mercury suffer
from lowered intelligence and a variety of other behavioral
have similar effects, so when you feed a kid a fish nowadays,
you are giving that kid a double dose of both mercury
While the EPA has been warning us about mercury for
the last few years, a proposed rule to decrease mercury
release from power plants and incinerators was dumped
earlier this year in favor of one that gives industry
15 years to reduce their discharges.
As is typical in such cases, industrial lobbyists
are claiming nobody can prove it is “their” 48 tons of
mercury discharged a year that is contaminating our fish.
Industry backers have claimed everything from “it
has been there all along and you just now found it” to
“it is natural mercury leaching into the water.”
Those of us who love to fish and eat fish will sit
back and shake our heads as we have been doing over the
past 30 years, depending on a government whose rule-making
is determined by the very industries that are poisoning
Want to know what your mercury consumption is, based
on eating fish? Go
on the internet and pick the fish you eat, enter your
weight and how much of this fish you eat a week, and your
exposure is calculated. For me, eating 16 ozs. of freshwater perch
a week took up 90 percent of my tolerance level.
This is from eating contaminated fish alone, and
fish at the national mercury average level.
Mercury and PCBs in our fish are yet another wake-up
call. It is time
to get interested in stopping pollution again, if you
have time between shooting Buds and Cuervo, football and
basketball games, and buying yellow ribbons for the pickup
Here is the U.S. EPA’s mercury web site: http://www.epa.gov/mercury/information1.htm