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Idaho fish consumption rate under scrutiny

BOISE — The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality plans to conduct a fish-consumption survey.

Agency spokesman Don Essig tells the Idaho Statesman the study will look at the general population and those who hold Idaho fishing licenses.

The agency hopes to find out the eating habits of Idaho residents when it comes to trout, bass and other fish.

Officials say fish-consumption rates are important to water quality regulators who use the information to calculate pollution standards intended to protect human health.

Authorities said the standards should be stronger if people eat more fish. The current standard in Idaho and Washington is based on a consumption rate of 6.5 grams per day per person.

The Environmental Protection Agency said that consumption rate is out of date.

“The thinking is they may be eating more fish,” Essig said.

The EPA in 2012 rejected Idaho’s revised human health criteria for 88 toxic chemicals. The agency said it preferred Idaho to update the standards, but the EPA would do it if the state didn’t. Officials at the state Department of Environmental Quality persuaded lawmakers to spend $300,000 so the state could do the study.

On another front, the EPA previously hired a contractor to determine how much fish the members of Idaho’s five Indian tribes eat. Tribal leaders say fish are a higher percentage of diets today than in the 1970s.

On Monday, advisories were issued for fish consumption on the Columbia River after tests showed levels of PCBs at 183 parts per million, well above the 0.47 parts per million federal standard. Mercury levels were 0.26 parts per million, exceeding the 0.22 ppm limit.

A national survey in the lower 48 in 2009 found that 48.8 percent of 36,422 lakes had fish tissue mercury concentrations that exceeded the 300 parts per billion human health safe level. Lakes in Idaho that were included in the study were Bear, Blackfoot, Brownlee, Palisades, and Priest Lake, as well as Enos and Loon lakes in Valley County.


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