New Study Says Many California Lakes Are Contaminated With Mercury

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, May 22, 2009
A lot of people are doing some fishing over the Memorial Day weekend.  But, they may want to hear more about a new study on mercury contamination in California lakes before they fry those filets.

Capital Public Radio's Steve Shadley reports...


The report was written by the San Francisco Estuary Institute. 
It shows that many California lakes and reservoirs have unhealthy levels of mercury.  And, that could be a hazard to people who eat fish from those waters, especially pregnant women and children.  Researcher Jay Davis helped conduct the study for the State Water Resources Control Board.  He says a lot of the contamination dates back to the California Gold Rush in the mid 1800’s...

“We have a history of gold mining and that has left a legacy of mercury contamination because mercury was used to purify the gold.  This mercury is still present in our watershed and slowly working its way through the system...”

Davis says emissions from coal-fired power plants also are increasing levels of mercury in California lakes and reservoirs.   He says fish most likely to have high levels of mercury are large mouth bass, while trout and bluegill tend to have lower levels.  A study of rivers and coastal waters still needs to be done in the next few years before the state can come up with a plan to deal with the mercury pollution.