State Officials Warn Of Dangers Of People Eating Fish Taken From The Kazoo River
With the exception of a very few specific areas, the fish of Kalamazoo River—specifically from Morrow Lake in Comstock Township downstream to Lake Michigan—carry enough chemicals in their bodies so as not be safe to eat, State of Michigan and regional officials announced at Monday’s Saugatuck City Council meeting.
They were there to promote the ongoing campaign to educate the public about lowering risk from the toxicity in fish and seek input for the “do not eat” signage proposed for placement at different locations along the river.
“Unfortunately chemicals are a problem, not only here (at the Kalamazoo River) but around the world,” said Michelle Bruneau of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Bruneau, along with Jamie McCarthy of the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council, gave the Pine River in St. Louis, Michigan as another example of a waterway where all—or most—of the fish are not safe to eat.
They want to disseminate a “positive message” about the Kalamazoo River while also cautioning folks about the danger of eating contaminated fish.
“We don’t want to say that there is something terrible about the river because there isn’t, but we do have to post it (‘do not eat’ signage) because it would be negligent on our part if we didn’t,” said Bruneau, adding that it was completely safe for people to be around the water—paddle, swim, canoe, etc.
One of the major culprits of fish toxicity in the Kalamazoo River are PCBs (e.g., polychlorinated biphenyl), a fact with a long history that has been associated with paper mills from the 1970s that practiced recycling from carbonless copy paper, they explained.
Asked by council if the PCB levels were on the decrease, Bruneau said, “I believe that it is, but it’s going to be a long time before its gone; with these chemicals they are not going to disappear overnight.”
Saugatuck and the Kalamazoo Lake Harbor Authority continue their efforts in coming up with a long-term strategy to reduce the silt of the harbor, a process which will, asserted Bruneau, reduce PCBs.
The state brochure “Eat Safe Fish” has S.A.F.E tips that provides a guide about how to choose, clean and cook fish: smaller fish are better; avoid large predator fish and bottom-feeders; fat should be removed; eat fish that have been broiled or grilled on a rack.
A more comprehensive look at the issue can be found at the Michigan website: michigan.gov/eatsafefish.