PUBLIC HEALTH, SPORTSMEN AND NATIVE GROUPS CALL FOR INVESTIGATION
Dec 13, Reno, NV – Public health, sportsmen, native, and conservation organizations are calling on the State Division of Health to investigate the need for fish consumption advisories for mercury in Wild Horse Reservoir and other reservoirs, lakes and streams in northern Nevada.
Recent analysis by the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) of several fish samples collected from Wild Horse Reservoir found mercury concentrations at levels that present a public health risk, particularly to children and pregnant women. Mercury is a powerful neurotoxin which can cause developmental problems such as delayed onset of walking, talking and delays and deficits in learning.
“As one of the oldest, organized fishing organizations in Nevada, the Ormsby Sportsmen Group encourages Nevada's state agencies do a better job of monitoring of mercury levels in Nevada's fish and wildlife. We all want future generations to be able to enjoy hunting, fishing, and other outdoor recreation in this beautiful state,” said Bob McCulloch of the Ormsby Sportsmen Group.
Water-bodies in northern Nevada, such as Wild Horse Reservoir are particularly at risk from mercury contamination because they are located downwind from numerous gold mining operations. According to the EPA, northern Nevada gold mines release over 4,600 pounds of mercury into the air each year about 18 times the amount of mercury released by the average coal-fired power plant. These mines are responsible for fully 25% of all U.S. mercury air emissions west of Texas.
Scientists have reported high mercury levels in fish and in waterfowl downwind of these mines in southeast Idaho and in Utah. Yet, very little monitoring has been done to determine the extent of mercury contamination in fish and waterfowl in northern Nevada.
“Mercury is particularly troublesome because it “bio-accumulates” or increases in concentrations as it moves up the food chain,” said Betty Razor of the Nevada Nurses Association. “Thus, large predatory fish tend to have higher concentrations of mercury. Because of our science-based practice, nurses understand the connection between the environment, human health and disease.”
“We re concerned because the mercury levels in these fish are roughly twice the level that triggers a fish consumption advisory in Idaho,” said Dan Randolph of Great Basin Mine Watch. “Given the high mercury concentrations in these little perch, we re worried that the bass will have even higher concentrations. The State needs to test all the fish species in these high risk areas because Nevada families and tourists need to where there s a health threat.”
“Protection of the land, air and water is very important to us. These are still Shoshone lands and these companies are operating in this manner without our consent,” said Larson Bill, Western Shoshone Defense Project Community Organizer. “They need to stop and be honest about the hazards they are creating for our communities.”
The state recently enacted mercury regulations for gold mines. However, the regulations are highly controversial because they do not include a cap on mercury air emissions, and several gold mines have dramatically increased their emissions in recent years.
The letter to the Nevada Division of Health can be downloaded at: https://earthworks.org/publications.cfm?pubID=214