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State issues fish advisories

The state health department announced Tuesday it was expanding its list of fish consumption advisories sites to include three new areas in Covington County — the Gantt reservoir, Pt. A reservoir and Patsaliga Creek.

Each year, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) updates fish consumption advisories based on data collected the preceding fall by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM). ADEM collected samples of specific fish species from various bodies of water throughout the state during the fall of 2008. ADPH assessed the analytical results to determine whether any of the tested contaminants in the fish could give rise to potential human health effects.

“Fish are good indicators of the health of a body of water,” said Terry Kyzar, environmental supervisor at the Covington County Health Department. “But this news shouldn’t make people panic. They should just be aware ADEM tested for 30 different contaminants, and in our case, some of our waterways tested for mercury in largemouth bass.”

Kyzar said the three new site additions can be attributed to new testing regulations recently implemented by the state health department, which are four times more stringent than older practices.

“So really the conditions haven’t changed (at the waterways),” he said. “It’s just that testing has become more strict.”

Health officials aren’t sure how mercury got into the waterways, but Kyzar said scientists speculate it was because it naturally occurs in the soil or it was leached from the air by rainfall.

Also, advisories from previous years are still active. Those advisories affect bass caught from Opp’s Frank Jackson Lake and Lightwood Knot Creek, Florala’s Lake Jackson and a portion of the Yellow River at the County Road 4 bridge crossing, 1.5 miles upstream of the Alabama-Florida state line.

“Fish consumption advisories are issued for specific bodies of water and specific species taken from those areas,” Kyzar said. “In reservoirs, advisories apply to waters as far as a boat can be taken upstream in a tributary, that is, to full pool elevations, which means that the mercury is contained to that specific location and to that specific species of fish.”

For Covington County’s affected waterways, consumption of largemouth bass is limited to one meal per month. Additionally, spotted bass caught in the area of the County Road 4 bridge on the Yellow River is also affected.

A meal portion consists of 6 ounces of cooked fish or 8 ounces of raw fish, Sass said.

Covington County’s six affected areas are among 54 “consumption advisories” issued around the state.

For a complete list of consumption advisories, see ADPH’s Web site at www.adph.org.