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State officials in North and South Carolina issued health advisories urging the public to stay away from largemouth bass and channel catfish in large portions of the Catawba River and its lakes due to contamination from polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs. These advisories come after years of prodding by Catawba Riverkeeper.

January 6, 2011 (Charlotte, NC) – A public announcement released today by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services places the first-ever PCB consumption advisory in the Catawba River system on Mountain Island Lake, which is the primary source of drinking water for Charlotte, Mt. Holly, Belmont, Matthews and Pineville .  Similarly, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control expanded its existing fish consumption advisory for PCBs to Lake Wylie, Fishing Creek Reservoir, Cedar Creek Reservoir and the Catawba River from Lake Wylie to Fishing Creek, a recently named South Carolina Scenic River.

 “Health officials are recommending that people avoid eating channel catfish (emphasis added) from Mountain Island Lake,” states a release from Julie Henry of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The announcement also advises against the consumption of largemouth bass in Mountain Island Lake but does not specify quantity.

Fish testing timeline

Click on image for larger version of timeline

South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control issued additional health advisories for Lake Wylie, the Catawba River from Lake Wylie to Fishing Creek,Fishing Creek Reservoir and Cedar Creek Reservoir.  Due to high levels of PCBs found in fish tissue, DHEC recommends that the public eat no more than one meal per week of largemouth bass from Lake Wylie and the Catawba River from Lake Wylie to Fishing Creek.  DHEC recommends that the public eat no more than one meal per month of largemouth bass from Fishing Creek Reservoir and Cedar Creek Reservoir.

 “These results undoubtedly show us that PCB contamination is a widespread problem in the Catawba River and its lakes,” states Catawba Riverkeeper David Merryman in response to today’s announcements.  “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.  Furthermore, the source of this contamination must be found and stopped them from further contaminating our River and its fish,”

PCBs can lead to the development of cancer, neurological development delays in children, infection, and skin and nail irritations and problems with the immune and reproductive systems.

Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation collected, analyzed and released largemouth bass fish tissue results in June 2010 showing elevated PCB concentrations in Mountain Island Lake. Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation advocates for the health, protection and enjoyment of the Catawba River watershed.

"There's no reason it should take months to get the science out to the fishermen and people who need it," said David Merryman. "Right now the first and most important thing is to control exposure and to go (test) Lake Norman and northward."

After requests by Catawba Riverkeeper, its members and other concerned citizens, North Carolina officials agreed to conduct additional testing to determine if fish from other lakes on the Catawba River are safe to eat, but they do not plan to do the testing until the fall of 2011.  Furthermore, there are no plans to alert fisherman to the dangers of eating fish by posting warning signs at boat ramps.  S.C. officials said they plan to expand their fish sampling in cooperation with North Carolina and the Environmental Protection Agency. S.C. officials issued an initial PCB advisory for Lake Wateree, the last reservoir in the Catawba chain, in May.  For more information about plans for further testing and the lack of warning signs, click here.  Additional testing results from samples taken by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services and the NC Division of Water Quality can be seen here.

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Tell your Riverkeeper if you see:

  • Sewage Overflows
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Click here to fill out a pollution report or to report water pollution to Catawba Riverkeeper by phone, call 1-888-679-9494 or 704-679-9494.  In addition, to informing your Riverkeeper, you should also report spills or contamination to federal, state and local environmental officials.

To report South Carolina water pollution call 1-888-481-0125.

To report North Carolina spills or fish kills, call your local regional Department of Environment & Natural Resources office during normal business hours (704-663-1699 for most Catawba basin areas or (828) 296-4500 for Burke, Caldwell, McDowell and other mountain counties) or 800-858-0368 after hours.  (For more information on NC spill reporting, click here)


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Fish Advisories

fish consumption chart crop

Fish consumption advisories have been issued throughout the Catawba-Wateree River basin.  Many of these advisories are the result of testing initiated by Catawba Riverkeeper and confirmed by state and local officials.  For a chart identifying fish types with the applicable advisories for the Charlotte area, click here.   For more information about the fish advisories, click here.

421 Minuet Ln Ste 205 . Charlotte, NC 28217-2784 . Phone: 704.679.9494 . Fax: 704.679.9559