Study Shows Mercury Pollution Persists In State Streams
By Jeff Bossert
A study of fish in small Illinois streams shows the level of mercury pollution is small when compared to the past century - but still traceable in sites throughout the state.
A state-funded pilot project selected small fish, like minnows…from the Saline Branch Ditch in Champaign County – considered a low-mercury site - as well as Panther Creek in southern Jasper County.
It’s considered a high volume site largely because of several coal- fired power plants in that region.
Jeff Levengood, a wildlife toxicologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey, said the levels would prove his theory that levels of concentration would be higher in Panther Creek.
“Small fish are eaten by bigger fish, and so on and so forth," he said. "So we would expect that the larger fish would have larger concentrations, and could be passed onto food chains to herrings, and river otters, and even people if they’re eating larger fish," he said. "And in fact, there are some restrictions – according to the fish consumption advisory – on fish in that region.”
Levengood said there are some regulations tied to the U.S. Clean Air Act that will place limits on mercury emissions.
He noted there are other factors tied to increased mercury pollution, including landscape changes due to farming, and converting more natural habitat to farmland.