the film

Warnings Expand on Fish Sources

by Staff and Wire Reports
Spokesman Review, June 22, 2007

The list is getting shorter for Washington lakes and rivers where anglers can feel comfortable eating as many fish as they like.

For several years, state officials have warned people not to eat any fish from the Spokane Valley portion of the Spokane River, due to high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, commonly known as PCBs.

Other warnings are in place to limit consumption of bass caught anywhere in the state and for walleye from Lake Roosevelt, due to mercury contamination. The Yakima River, Lake Washington, Puget Sound, Lake Chelan and others have their own advisories.

Now, the Washington Department of Health is advising people not to eat mountain whitefish from the final 27 miles of the Wenatchee River due to high levels of PCBs found during a recent state Department of Ecology study.

PCB contamination also was found in fish taken from the Snake, Columbia and Palouse rivers, although new fish-consumption advisories are not expected on those waters.

Sandy Howard, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Ecology, said six species of fish were tested from four spots on the Snake, between Clarkston and the Tri-Cities. The highest concentrations of PCBs - about twice what researchers normally expect to see - were found in fish collected below Lower Monumental Dam.

"What that indicates is this river does have some problems with toxics," Howard said. "It's on our radar screen, and the Health Department does have it on their radar screen."

Although new restrictions aren't being considered for the Snake, tests there and elsewhere indicate that no one should be eating Northern pikeminnow, a species that used to be called squawfish, the name still used by many fishermen. They are generally considered scrap fish rather than food fish. The government offers a bounty on pikeminnows caught on some portions of the Snake as part of the salmon-restoration effort.

"So we're not that concerned (about Northern pikeminnows), but we do need to let people know who might be eating them that this is not a good choice," said Dave McBride, a Department of Health toxicologist.

PCBs, once widely used in products ranging from newspaper ink to hydraulic fluid and house paint, have been banned by the federal government since 1977.

Fish advisories Existing Washington Department of Health fish consumption advisories for Eastern Washington. Recommendations are based on a precooked serving size of 8 ounces for adults, smaller for children. For a comparison, a can of tuna contains 6 ounces of cooked fish.

Fish Tissue Sample Results Not Meeting Clean Water Standards
Site Name Species
Total PCBs 2,3,7,8-TCDD 4-4'-DDE Dieldren Total Chloradane Toxaphene 2,3,7,8-TCDD TEQ
Snake River
below Clarkston
Mtn. Whitefish
X   X X     X
Snake River
below Lower Monumental Dam
Channel Catfish X X X X X X X
Snake River
at Central Ferry
Channel Catfish
Large Mouth Bass
X X X X X   X
Snake River
above Ice Harbor Dam
Common Carp
X X X       X

Related Sites:
Publication Summary from WA Department of Health

Staff and Wire Reports
Warnings Expand on Fish Sources
Spokesman Review, June 22, 2007

See what you can learn

learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs
discussion forum
salmon animation