2 new waterways added to Utah's mercury advisory

Published: Thursday, Aug. 29 2013 4:10 p.m. MDT

New testing reveals two additional waterways, Starvation and recapture Reservoirs, are under a mercury advisory issued by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality in conjunction with state health and natural resource agencies.

Marc Weaver, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Starvation and Recapture reservoirs have joined the list of Utah waterways under the state's mercury advisory, which means health warnings for consumption.

The state also added a new species — largemouth bass at Recapture Reservoir — to the list, as well modifying an existing location, Quail Creek Reservoir, for largemouth bass.

Pregnant women and children under age 6 in particular are vulnerable to mercury toxicity and should avoid consumption of fish to prevent an intake of mercury that exceeds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's health recommendations.

Women of child-bearing age should limit consumption of largemouth bass from mercury-contaminated waterways to no more than 8 ounces in one month, while women past child-bearing years and men may have four 8-ounce portions a month.

An 8-ounce serving is equivalent to the size of two decks of playing cards.

Mercury is a naturally occurring element that can be transformed into methyl mercury, a toxic form found naturally in some waters. Chronic exposure to low concentrations of methyl mercury in fish may result in neurological effects in developing fetuses and children.

There is no health risk associated with mercury in the water for other uses of the reservoirs, streams, rivers or creeks, such as swimming, boating and waterskiing.

Amy Dickey, an environmental scientist with the division, said the good news is that after testing hundreds of water bodies, health officials have found that less than 10 percent of Utah’s waters have fish with elevated levels of mercury in their tissue.

"It is relatively small, so we like to stress that fish is an important, healthy part of your diet," Dickey said.

Starvation and Recapture reservoirs are among nearly two dozen waterways or drainages that are on the mercury health advisory list. Not all water bodies have been tested in Utah. The state has a mercury work group that meets twice a year to discuss the latest research, funding opportunities and new strategies for dealing with the issue.

More information can be found at www.mercury.utah.gov

Email: amyjoi@deseretnews.com, Twitter: amyjoi16

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