I can’t believe the Salisbury Post, which covered Monday evening’s public meeting on the Yadkin Pee-Dee River System Fish and Sediment Study, failed to report that there are PCBs in High Rock Lake. If you want something done right … Here’s what you need to know.
The NC Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health, reported their findings Monday (May 13) evening at a public meeting held at Morrow Mountain State Park near Albemarle. The study was conducted in conjunction with the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the EPA. Sediment samples were collected in 2011 and 2012 in boat access and swimming areas where the public comes into contact with lake bottoms, as well as in the center channel of High Rock, Badin, Falls, and Tillery Lakes, and the upper reaches of Blewett Falls Lake.
Aroclor PCBs were detected in two samples, one in a small cove above the Falls Dam, and the other below the Lake Tillery Dam. Subsequent testing in the Falls Lake cove found no PCBs present, indicating either a very small contaminated area, or that the contaminated sediment had washed away. No harmful health effects were indicated for the most sensitive group, children ages 1 to 6, or for persons of other ages.
PCBs are a class of man-made chemicals thought to be carcinogenic which were manufactured between 1929 and 1977. 1.1 million tons were manufactured worldwide; 625,000 tons were sold in the U. S. They were widely used in electrical and hydraulic equipment, fluorescent lighting, appliances, inks, pesticides, waxes, and carbonless paper. They are widely circulated in water systems as well as through global atmospheric transport. A point source is not required for them to be present. PCBs are everywhere, even in the Artic and Antarctic.
Fish sampling in Badin Lake in 2008 had found three catfish and one largemouth bass to be above the advisory action levels for total PCBs in fish tissue. Of those, two catfish and the one bass were caught in the northwest arm of the lake, and one catfish in the southwest region of the lake. Based on the results of the study, the NC Division of Public Health recommended that people limit their consumption of catfish and largemouth bass to no more than 1 meal per week due to PCBs. Due to an existing Mercury Advisory for fresh water fish caught in NC, women who are pregnant, nursing, or of child-bearing age, and children younger than 15 years of age should not eat any catfish or largemouth bass from Badin Lake.
In conjunction with the 2011-2012 sediment testing, fish were sampled in High Rock and Falls Lakes, and in Lake Tillery. Nine samples exceeded the PCB action level, three in each lake. All were catfish over 18” long. In High Rock Lake, one of the fish had been caught in the upper region of the lake, near Potts Creek, the other two in the Abbott Creek arm of the lake. Based on these results, the same advisories were made as in Badin Lake, with the exception that the advisories for High Rock, Falls, and Tillery Lakes apply only to catfish. No bass were found in any of the three lakes which exceeded the PCB action level.
The State environmental agencies and the EPA have said since 2009 that the PCBs in Badin Lake could not be conclusively linked to Alcoa. They are a watershed-based issue. I think the prevalence of PCBs throughout the lower Yadkin basin, above and below Badin Lake, bears out that conclusion, and shows that both the amount of attention paid to Badin Lake, and the accusations blaming Alcoa for the PCBs, have been blown out of proportion.
For further information:
PowerPoint presentation from meeting 5/13/2013: Yadkin-PeeDee.Fish.PCBs_WEB.pdf
Map of Sampling locations: Yadkin_PCB_study_map.pdf