Improved Monitoring Leads to Growth in Fish Advisories

States, tribes and territories issued 3,221 fish advisories in 2004, according to data just released by the Environmental Protection Agency.

States, tribes and territories issued 3,221 fish advisories in 2004, according to data just released by the Environmental Protection Agency. The latest number is an increase from the 2003 reporting period, when 3,089 advisories were issued. The increase is directly related to more frequent and accurate monitoring by states, EPA said.

The advisories alert residents to the potential health risks of eating contaminated fish caught in lakes, rivers and coastal waters. They do not pertain to commercial fishing. All 50 states have fish-advisory programs, although two − Wyoming and Alaska − issued no advisories.

While the 2004 National Listing of Fish Advisories database reflects an increase in advisories, the database also shows that the number of safe-eating guidelines issued by states continues to rise rapidly as states expand their monitoring activities. Safe-eating guidelines inform the public that fish from specific bodies of water or species of fish are safe to eat.

Each state sets its own criteria and decides which bodies of water to monitor. Some measurements involved coastal waters, rivers or lakes or a combination of the three. Additionally, states do not always monitor the same bodies of water from year to year. Fish advisories are voluntary state recommendations and are not governed by federal regulations.

“We are working in collaboration with our state partners to help ensure more waters are being tested and that the public receives accurate information about the fish they catch,” said Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin H. Grumbles. “More monitoring triggers more advisories and actions to reduce risk and improve public health.”

Frequently, when a fish advisory is issued it is because of pollutants that have lingered in the environment for long periods, sometimes decades, even though they are no longer used or their use has been significantly curtailed. These pollutants include PCB’s, chlordane, DDT, mercury and dioxin.

You can find the 2004 National Listing of Fish Advisories at: http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/fish/advisories. Information about advisories in various states is at: http://epa.gov/waterscience/fish/states.htm. Additional reference materials are available at: http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/fish/promo.html.

River Sediment Assessment Methods Web Site Completed

The EPA Office of Water has created a new web site designed to help watershed managers assess and restore waters with suspended or bedded sediment problems. The WARSSS website (Watershed Assessment of River Stability and Sediment Supply) features a three-phase technical framework of methods for assessing suspended and bedload sediment in rivers and streams.

WARSSS is a watershed approach to sediment assessment that focuses on natural variability in sediment dynamics; geologic versus anthropogenic sediment sources; erosional and depositional processes; prediction of sediment loads; streamflow changes; and stream channel stability and departure from reference condition.

This web-based assessment tool was designed for scientists who need to assess sediment-impaired waters in planning for their restoration. The site also contains the entire sediment model WRENSS, a stream classification tutorial, and links to clean sediment information and tools.

The WARSSS Web site is at http://www.epa.gov/warsss.

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