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Colorado Fishing News Back to Colorado Fishing News
Mercury Advisories for Rifle, Elkhead, Granby, more
2/25/2009
Credit:
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/release/2009/022509.html
DENVER - The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Colorado Division of Wildlife are announcing fish consumption advisories for Rifle Gap Reservoir, Elkhead Reservoir, Juniata Reservoir, Catamount Lake and Lake Granby due to elevated mercury levels detected in fish tissue samples collected at the reservoirs.

The fish tissue testing is part of an ongoing five-year sampling plan of approximately 120 water bodies in the state. These postings follow state laboratory results on fish tissue samples completed on 33 additional water bodies in 2008. More than 112 water bodies now have had laboratory testing completed as part of the study. Of those, 23 (approximately one in five) have required fish consumption advisories for mercury. These are listed on the state's Web site at http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/wq/FishCon/analyses/. Also listed are two other water bodies that are not part of the mercury study, but were posted for other parameters: Sweitzer Lake for selenium, and Willow Springs Ponds for perchloroethylene.

According to state officials, routine sampling indicated at least one fish of the species sampled at Elkhead, Rifle Gap and Juniata reservoirs and at Granby and Catamount lakes met or exceeded the mercury action level of 0.5 parts per million set by the state health department. All species and sizes of fish with mercury levels in their tissue greater than 0.3 parts per million are considered in these advisories.

Mercury poisoning can affect humans of all ages. However, pregnant women and children under age 6 are especially susceptible, because mercury can harm developing nervous systems in fetuses and young children. Adults exposed to high mercury levels also can suffer from central nervous system and cardiovascular problems.

Occasionally, as in the case of Juniata, a water body that serves as a drinking water source will require a fish consumption advisory. Drinking water that might contain small, trace amounts of inorganic mercury does not pose a health concern. The concern is when inorganic mercury is converted to organic mercury through the food chain. Insect or plants may absorb some of the inorganic mercury, turning it into organic mercury that then can be consumed by fish. As larger predator fish eat other small fish, the mercury amounts in fish tissue accumulate. The health concern occurs when these larger fish are consumed by humans. When humans ingest inorganic mercury in small trace amounts in water, it is not significantly absorbed in the body.

Each fish consumption advisory includes consumption recommendations in three categories: for the general population children aged 6 and younger and women who are pregnant, nursing or who may become pregnant. The following fish consumption advisories provide advice on limiting certain species and sizes of fish to a certain number of meals per month. A meal is considered to be 8 ounces for adults and 4 ounces for children. [Detailed advisories are found at the end of this release - and provided as attachments.]

The main source of mercury in Colorado water bodies is air deposition - mercury in the air being deposited in lakes, streams and reservoirs.

State Efforts to Reduce Mercury Emissions

Colorado is addressing mercury in the environment aggressively. In 2007 and 2008, the department's Air Pollution Control Division completed work on two rules with the electric utility industry, environmental groups and local governments to dramatically reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants - 80 percent reductions for existing facilities starting in 2012 and increasing to 90 percent in 2018, and 90 percent reductions for new or modified facilities effective immediately. The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission approved these requirements. This consortium also developed a consensus agreement approved by the commission to install air monitors for mercury emissions from power plants. These measures will serve to substantially benefit lakes, streams, aquatic species and human health by reducing the amount of mercury that ends up in our natural riparian ecosystems.

The department also supports implementation of a regulation to reduce mercury emissions from electric arc furnaces, such as those used at facilities such as Rocky Mountain Steel Mills in Pueblo. The department has worked with the steel mill to secure installation of a first-of-its-kind mercury air emissions monitor to provide specific data about mercury emissions.

Mercury is a broadly transported air pollutant, and the department is encouraging western states to consider implementing aggressive mercury reduction programs for existing and new coal-fired electric power plants similar to the measures approved by Colorado.

Colorado also is encouraging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to approve strong mercury reduction regulations similar to those approved by Colorado in 2007 and 2008 to benefit the nation's water bodies, including those in the southwest and in Colorado. Aggressive mercury reduction measures by EPA on, for example, the existing Four Corners and proposed (and recently-permitted) Desert Rock power plants located on Navajo Nation lands in northern New Mexico would serve to reduce mercury emissions in the region.

Five Fish Consumption Advisories Announced

Rifle Gap Reservoir: The fish consumption advisory for Rifle Gap Reservoir recommends that children aged 6 or younger do not consume any smallmouth bass larger than 15 inches or walleye larger than 18 inches and limit consumption of northern pike larger than 20 inches to only one meal per month. For pregnant women, nursing women and women who plan on being pregnant, the advisory recommends not consuming walleye larger than 18 inches and consuming only one meal per month of smallmouth bass larger than 15 inches and northern pike larger than 20 inches. For the general population, the recommendation is a limit of two meals per month of smallmouth bass larger than 15 inches and northern pike larger than 20 inches. The advisory also recommends the general public consume only one meal per month of walleye larger than 18 inches.

Elkhead Reservoir: The fish consumption advisory for Elkhead Reservoir recommends that children aged 6 or younger do not consume any largemouth bass larger than 15 inches or smallmouth bass, northern pike or black crappie of any size. For pregnant women, nursing women and women who plan on being pregnant, the advisory recommends not consuming largemouth bass larger than 15 inches or smallmouth bass of any size and limiting consumption of northern pike and black crappie to one meal per month. For the general population, the recommendation is a limit of one meal per month of largemouth bass larger than 15 inches or smallmouth bass and black crappie of any size and a limit of two meals per month for northern pike.

Lake Granby (Granby Reservoir): The fish consumption advisory for Lake Granby (Granby Reservoir) recommends that children aged 6 or younger do not consume any lake trout larger than 30 inches. For pregnant women, nursing women and women who plan on being pregnant, the recommendation is a limit of one meal per month of lake trout larger than 30 inches. The same is recommended for the general public.

Catamount Lake: The fish consumption advisory for Catamount Lake recommends that children aged 6 or younger do not consume any northern pike larger than 36 inches and consume only one meal per month of northern pike smaller than 36 inches. For pregnant women, nursing women and women who plan on being pregnant, the recommendation is a limit of one meal per month of northern pike of any size. For the general population, the recommendation is a limit of one meal per month of northern pike larger than 36 inches and two meals per month for northern pike smaller than 36 inches.

Juniata Reservoir: The fish consumption advisory for Juniata - truncated -