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New mercury advisory in Utah extends to 3 waterways, 1 species of fish

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 23 2011 2:31 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Recent sampling of fish tissue has prompted a new mercury advisory by water quality regulators for three waterways and one new species of fish.

Donna Spangler, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Quality, said the advisory has been extended to include black bullhead and the following locations:  Recapture Reservoir in San Juan County, Duchesne River near Tabiona in Duchesne County and the Brough Reservoir in Uintah County.

For more than a decade, the state has tested 322 bodies of water for mercury, with only 19 of these sites having average concentrations that exceeded federal limits imposed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

While there are no health risks associated with swimming or other recreational activities in water with mercury, it can pose health risks to vulnerable populations such as women who are pregnant, who plan to become pregnant or nursing mothers.

The division also warns that chronic exposure to low concentrations of methyl mercury in fish may result in neurological effects in the developing fetus and children.

Mark Hadley, a spokesman with the state Division of Wildlife Resources, said the mercury findings in fish populations do not have an impact on the agency's determination on where to stock for recreational fishing.

"At those 19 waters we do not stock very many of them because at most of the waters, the fish rely on natural reproduction to sustain themselves," Hadley said, "and the advisory affects only a portion of the population."

Any health risks associated with eating fish from the advisory areas are based on long-term consumption and are not tied to eating fish occasionally. Eating fish remains an important part of a healthful diet. The American Heart Association recommends that individuals eat at least two fish or seafood meals weekly.

The new and revised fish advisories include:

• Newcastle Reservoir (Iron County) — Pregnant women and children should not eat smallmouth bass. Adults should limit their consumption to one 8-ounce serving per month. No one should eat large-sized wipers greater than 16 inches or 2.2 pounds. Pregnant women and children should limit consumption to one 4-ounce serving per month and adults to two 8-ounce servings per month.

• Recapture Reservoir (San Juan County) — Pregnant women and children should not eat black bullhead. Adults should limit their consumption to one 8-ounce serving per month.

• Duchesne River near Tabiona (Duchesne County) — Pregnant women and children should not eat brown trout. Adults should limit their consumption to two 8-ounce servings per month.

• Brough Reservoir (Uintah County) — No one should eat brown trout. Pregnant women and children should not eat rainbow trout. Adults should limit their consumption of rainbow trout to one 8-ounce serving per month.

• Red Fleet Reservoir (Uintah County) — Pregnant women and children should not eat large walleyes — greater than 12 inches long — and adults should limit their consumption to two 8-ounce servings per month. For smaller sized walleyes — less than 12 inches long — pregnant women and children should limit their consumption to one 4-ounce serving per month and adults should limit their consumption to two 8-ounce servings per month.

• Steinaker Reservoir (Uintah County) — Pregnant women and children should not eat large-mouth bass. Adults should limit their consumption to two 8-ounce servings per month.

A complete list of all Utah Mercury Fish Consumption Advisories can be found at www.fishadvisories.utah.gov.

An 8-ounce serving is equivalent to the size of two decks of playing cards. The EPA advises that as states increase the waters they monitor for contaminated fish, both the number of advisories and the waters where it is safe to eat fish are increasing. If there are concerns about exposure to mercury via fish consumption, a local health care provider can provide additional details.

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com Twitter: amyjoi16

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