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Department of Environmental Quality Updates Mercury In Fish List

John Sekutowski

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has updated its consumption advisory directory of lakes with fish that have mercury. Five lakes have been added to the list: Chandler Lake, Lake Hefner, Shawnee Twin Lakes, Sooner Lake, Lake Tenkiller, Lake Texoma and Lake Thunderbird. 

Since the last time the department updated the list, five other lakes were removed, bringing the total number to 66 lakes with mercury consumption advisories. Jay Wright, an environmental programs manager at DEQ, said mercury releases naturally through sources like volcanoes and forest fires. It can also come from man made sources like the gold mining industry. The mercury gets into the atmosphere and eventually can end up in lakes and fish. 

Wright said while consuming fish is healthy, fish with high levels of mercury can be harmful. “If the fish have too much mercury in it, then it's detrimental to the development of a healthy nervous system and brain development and in fetuses and young children,” Wright said. 

Mercury levels do not affect the lake’s safety as a source of drinking water or for swimming and boating, according to DEQ. Erin Hatfield, a DEQ spokesperson, says Oklahomans should still go fishing and eat fish. “We absolutely encouraged people to go fishing and we want people to eat the fish that they catch,” Hatfield said. “They just need to have the best information possible. And that's what we've made available.”

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

Seth Bodine joined KOSU in June 2020, focusing on agriculture and rural issues.
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