Toxins found in area rivers

Toxins found in area rivers

By Joe Baker, Senior Editor

The entire Rock River within the state of Illinois has been designated by the state Environmental Protection Agency as an impaired waterway. The same label has been applied also to portions of the Pecatonica and Sugar rivers as well as the Kishwaukee River.

Nathan Hill of the Kishwaukee Ecosystem Partnership said the EPA has added 166 miles to its biennial listing of impaired rivers and streams in the state. The river, on the 2000 list, had only 15 miles specified as impaired.

Hill said the reason this time is more serious. The same is true for the Rock and the other rivers. Fish in these streams have been found to have mercury and PCBs in their fatty tissues.

The EPA is advising the public to not eat more than one meal of these fish per week. More than that could be harmful.

Jerry Paulson of the Natural Land Institute said it appears the levels of concentration in the fish are low, not high enough to kill the fish. Hill said information is being sought from the EPA regarding this issue.

Sources of these pollutants are undetermined at present. “There are a lot of places this can come from,” Paulson said. He mentioned dumping, leakage from tanks or other containers, runoff, atmospheric pollution and other sources.

Mercury is highly toxic and PCBs have a very long life. They are used in electrical transformers, but there are other sources. Both Hill and Paulson said they don’t know the significance of the report at this point. No spokesmen for the EPA were available late Tuesday.

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