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Riverkeeper seeks answers to Catawba contamination

After health officials issued warnings Thursday about eating fish from the Catawba River, David Merryman, Catawba riverkeeper, wants to know where the polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are coming from.

Health officials in North and South Carolina are urging the public to not eat largemouth bass and channel catfish in large portions of the river and its lakes because of unsafe levels of PCB found in fish tissue. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has issued the first-ever PCB consumption advisory for the Catawba River system on Mountain Island Lake, the primary source of drinking water for Charlotte, Mount Holly, Gastonia, Mint Hill, Matthews and Pineville.

Officials are also advising against the consumption of largemouth bass in Mountain Island Lake.

“The source of this contamination must be found and stopped,” Merryman said. “We need to continue sampling the Catawba from Lake James to Lake Norman and make sure the proper advisories are in place to protect residents from contaminated fish.”

Congress banned the production of PCBs in the 1970s. Merryman questioned whether the pollutants are coming from older contamination in the river’s sediment and surround lakes or from runoff.

In June, the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation released findings that showed elevated PCBs levels in the tissue of largemouth bass in Mountain Island Lake.

Officials are recommending that people eat no more than one meal per week of largemouth bass from Lake Wylie and the Catawba River from Lake Wylie to Fishing Creek and no more than one meal per month of largemouth bass from Fishing Creek and Cedar Creek reservoirs.

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