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Local News

July 16, 2010

DEQ issues fish advisory for Boomer Lake

STILLWATER, Okla. — The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has issued a fish advisory for Boomer Lake in Stillwater.

The advisory is one of many targeting lakes statewide. The department issued the advisories due to elevated mercury concentrations in fish. The only variety of fish in Boomer Lake affected by the advisory is largemouth bass.

According to the advisory, those who are especially susceptible to the effects of mercury should eat no more than two servings of 16- to 19-inch largemouth bass in a month, and should avoid eating largemouth bass over 19 inches in length altogether. The advisory said women of child-bearing age, pregnant women, nursing mothers and children up to age 15 are especially susceptible to mercury.

Those not in the sensitive population category should not eat more than two servings per month of largemouth bass over 19 inches in length, according to the advisory.

Other fish in the lake, including channel catfish, carp, redear sunfish and white crappie, are safe for consumption, according to the advisory.

Jay Wright, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Quality, said other activities, such as boating and swimming, are not affected because the concentration of mercury in the water is much lower than the safe drinking water standard.

Stillwater’s drinking water comes from the Kaw Reservoir near Ponca City. A similar fishing advisory has been issued for the reservoir, but Wright said the advisory is no cause for concern. In most cases, the mercury in the water is attached to sediment particles or tied up in plankton, and is removed during the water treatment process.

“By the time your drinking water gets to your pipe, the mercury that’s in there is a really, really tiny amount,” Wright said.

Wright said mercury makes its way into bodies of water when it is emitted into the atmosphere through natural sources, such as volcanoes, and man-made sources, such as coal-fired power plants.

Once the mercury is in the atmosphere, some of it is distributed globally, Wright said. The mercury out of the atmosphere in Oklahoma may have come from as far away as China, Russia and India, he said.

Once mercury reaches bodies of water, it enters the food chain, and eventually reaches high levels of concentration in large fish, Wright said.

The department hopes to revisit the lakes to take follow-up samples at a later date, Wright said. He said he expects samples would be taken once every three to five years, and advisories would be rescinded or issued accordingly.

“We want to get back to these lakes on some kind of regular basis,” he said.

The department is holding a number of public meetings about the fish advisories across Oklahoma, Wright said. Although no meeting is planned for the Stillwater area, Wright said the department would hold one if there were sufficient public interest.

For more information about lake fish advisories, visit the Department of Environmental Quality’s website at

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