Survey shows mercury contamination in fish - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Survey shows mercury contamination in fish

By Jay Polk - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -  If you prefer to catch your dinner in South Georgia streams, a new study may make you think twice. 

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, mercury was found in fish that were caught in every one of the 291 streams that were surveyed nationwide. If that sounds scary, it is. Mercury is dangerous stuff.

"Mercury is a neurological poison. It can cause lots of things from just feeling nauseous, sickness to all types of neurological disorders," said Rob Weller of the Dept. of Natural Resources. 

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources worked with the USGS to conduct the survey here in Georgia. And because of the levels of mercury, they have warned the public about certain types of fish.

"Largemouth bass. Which would also include spotted bass and shoal bass,"  said Weller.

And they've recommended that people don't consume too much of the restricted fish. Take the largemouth bass, for example.

"You shouldn't eat more than one meal a week from the Flint," said Weller.

"You can see when I reach my hand down into the river how it's obscured a little bit and that's because the Flint, like a lot of rivers, creeks and streams in South Georgia is a blackwater river. And that's actually part of the problem," said Weller.

The survey from USGS found that blackwater rivers had higher levels of mercury in the fish.

"It's because of the acidity in the water. It can be easily metabolized by fish."

So where did all of this mercury come from?

"It gets there primarily through the burning of fossil fuels and coal. It goes up in the atmosphere through the burning process of the fuel. And is deposited atmospherically through rainfall."

That means that most of the mercury that was found here in Georgia actually came from coal plants and other sources as far away as Texas. The good news is that eating fish is still acceptable, and you shouldn't have any health problems.

 "As long as you're not eating fish on a daily basis."

So if you follow the recommendations of the DNR, that time tested South Georgia tradition of going to the fishing hole can continue.

Good news for catfish lovers, though. There are no eating restrictions on that South Georgia favorite.

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