Yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the approval of new water quality criteria for mercury in California waters. The new rules, developed by the State Water Resources Control Board, set mercury limits in fish tissue to protect human health and aquatic-dependent wildlife. New protections also have been added for tribal cultural use and subsistence fishing.
In California, Gold Rush-era mining operations released millions of pounds of mercury, a potent neurotoxin, into state waterways. Miners dug up 12 billion tons of earth, and used mercury to extract the gold ore. The amount of mercury required to violate federal health standards is equivalent to one gram in a small lake. Approximately 26,000,000 pounds of mercury was used in gold mining Northern California, mostly in the Sierra Nevada and the Klamath-Trinity Mountain areas. The amount of mercury lost to the Northern California
environment from the 1860’s through the early 1900’s is estimated at 3–8 million pounds. A University of California at Davis study estimated that Clear Lake, the traditional homeland to Pomo Indian fishing communities, contains over 100 tons of mercury today. Once there, the toxic metal builds up in fish tissue and is consumed by people and wildlife. To address that risk, the state’s new criteria set maximum mercury limits in fish tissue for various species caught for sport, subsistence and cultural practices.The new rules
“We commend the State Water Resources Control Board for working with numerous tribes and dischargers to develop and adopt water quality standards for protecting human health and wildlife throughout the state from the harmful effects of mercury,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “By focusing on mercury concentrations in fish tissue, these rules will have a direct and positive impact on public health and the environment.”
The state’s new rules set five new water quality criteria for mercury in fish tissue for tribal subsistence fishing, general subsistence fishing, prey fish, sport fish and for fish commonly consumed by the protected California Least Tern. The new criteria will help protect and inform the public about levels of mercury in popular sport fish like salmon, bass, sturgeon and trout.
“Salmon, bass, sturgeon and other popular fish like trout are sought after as a key food source by California Native American tribes, and other groups that depend on fish for sustenance, but are often contaminated by mercury. Mercury is found in many fresh water bodies in California, and is largely a legacy of the Gold Rush era, and difficult to deal with, but cannot be ignored,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus. “This approval is an important step in focusing attention on what can be done to limit exposures.”
The new mercury criteria will apply to inland surface waters, enclosed bays, and estuaries of the state, except for water bodies where approved site-specific objectives already exist, such as: San Francisco Bay and Delta; Clear Lake; and portions of Walker Creek, Cache Creek, and Guadalupe River Watersheds.
SOURCE: Adapted from EPA News Relaese dated 07/18/2017 Related information
California State: CALFED Bay-Delta Program website: Mercury: The Toxic Legacy of the California Gold Rush EPA: Health Effects of Exposures to Mercury California EPA: State Water Resource Control Board: Addressing Mercury in California's Waters California EPA: State Water Resource Control Board: A copy of the approval letter and standards Related EVISA Resources
Link Database: Toxicity of Organo-mercury compounds Link Database: Mercury exposure through the diet Link Database: Environmental cycling of methylmercury Link Database: Environmental cycling of inorganic mercury Link Database: Environmental pollution of methylmercury Link Database: Environmental pollution of inorganic mercury Link Database: Toxicity of mercury Related EVISA News May 22, 2017: EU ratification propels global Minamata Convention on Mercury into force October 12, 2013: Minamata Convention is adopted (12.10.2013) January 21, 2013: UNEP mercury treaty exempts vaccines for children March 22, 2013: Mercury isotope fractionation provides new tool to trace the source of human exposure January 14, 2013: United Nations Global Mercury Treaty: Fifth and final session January 14, 2013: Mercury Levels in Humans and Fish Around the World Regularly Exceed Health Advisory Levels December
9, 2012: Mercury in fish more dangerous than previously believed;
Scientists urge for effective treaty ahead of UN talks
July 31, 2012: FDA Lands in Court Over Mercury in Fish June 17, 2012: Factors Affecting Methylmercury Accumulation in the Food Chain March 1, 2012: High levels of mercury in newborns likely from mothers eating contaminated fish October 15, 2011: Mercury pollution in the Great Lakes region -- nearly forgotten, but not gone EVISA
News, June 19, 2011: Committee for Socio-economic Analysis agrees on
two draft opinions on restriction proposals for mercury compounds under
REACH August 16, 2010: Methylmercury: What have we learned from Minamata Bay? August 21, 2009: USGS Study Reveals Mercury Contamination in Fish Nationwide May 3, 2009: Ocean mercury on the rise February 11, 2009: Mercury in Fish is a Global Health Concern October 30, 2008: Precautionary approach to methylmercury needed
March 11, 2007: Methylmercury contamination of fish warrants worldwide public warning October 9, 2006: Linking atmospheric mercury to methylmercury in fish August 16, 2006: Mercury pollution threatens health worldwide, scientists say June 8, 2006: Methylmercury in fish: Can you cook it out ? February 17, 2006: Study shows link between clear lakes and methylmercury contamination in fish
February 9, 2006: Study show high levels of mercury in women related to fish consumption August 29, 2005: Is methyl mercury limiting the delight of
seafood ? - To answer this question is a challenge for elemental
speciation analysis January 12, 2005: Number of fish meals is a good predictor for the mercury found in hair of environmental journalists April 27, 2004: New kind of mercury found in fish April 27, 2004: FDA/EPA recommends pregnant women to restrict their fish consumption because of methylmercury content
last time modified: July 19, 2017