More fish advisories as water tested

WASHINGTON (AP) — Minnesota issued more than 700 fish-contamination advisories in 1996, a third of all advisories put out by states that year. Neighboring South Dakota had none and North Dakota had 35. But that’s no reason for anglers to flee the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
An environmental group says states vary widely in how closely they monitor lakes and streams and also in how they decide to issue advisories.
In 1996, states issued 2,194 fish consumption advisories for bodies of water or statewide, an 80 percent increase from 1993, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The group attributed the increase to better monitoring by the states but said the federal government should impose national standards to make sure all states alert consumers to the problems.
“Some states conduct considerable monitoring, others little or none,” said Amy Kyle, the report’s author. “States also vary in how they warn the public.”
The Great Lakes region is one of the nation’s most polluted. But Minnesota also has a large number of lakes — 5,000 are actively fished — and is more aggressive than most states in its monitoring, Kyle said. Wisconsin had 443 advisories, the second largest number.
Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota use the Environmental Protection Agency’s risk-analysis guidelines in monitoring fish, while South Dakota uses less stringent Food and Drug Administration standards.
Fish advisories recommend limiting or avoiding consumption of fish that may have been contaminated by toxins in the water and sediments. A typical advisory would suggest eating a certain species of fish no more than once a week.
Thirteen states had statewide advisories in 1996. Most warnings are issued for individual streams, lakes or coastal areas.
The group urged Congress to approve the EPA’s five-year, $2.3 billion plan to improve water quality nationwide. EPA wants to do a national survey of fish contamination levels, lay out a strategy for removing pollutants from lake and river beds, and force states to tighten their monitoring.
A 1999 budget plan approved by the Senate last week included no money for the program.
The 1996 advisories covered 15 percent of all lake areas, 5 percent of river and stream miles and all of the Great Lakes.
Most of the advisories are for mercury, a product of incinerators and coal-fired generating plants, and PCBs. Nine states have statewide advisories for mercury and six for PCBs.
The number of advisories is likely to keep increasing as states do more testing.
Minnesota will issue advisories this year for 742 lakes and 48 rivers. “Every year we try to sample some new waters and re-test waters that have been tested in the past,” said Patricia McCann, a research scientist for the Minnesota Health Department.
South Dakota tests 10 lakes or streams a year, said Dennis Unkenholz, director of fisheries for the state Game, Fish and Parks Department.