TDEC extends fish consumption advisories on Cherokee Lake, Nolichucky River due to mercury

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FILE Nolichucky River (Courtesy: Amy Millhorn Leonard)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has extended precautionary fish consumption advisories on Cherokee Lake and the Nolichucky River due to mercury contamination.

The Cherokee Lake advisory has been expanded to include the entire reservoir. It includes black bass and catfish species. Previously, the advisory only extended from the Poor Valley Creek embayment on Cherokee Lake upstream to the confluence of the North Fork Holston River in Kingsport. The advisory for the Holston River upstream of the reservoir will continue to be for all fish species.

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The Nolichucky advisory now covers the entire river from the Douglas Lake upstream to the North Carolina line. It applies to all black back species. The existing advisory for channel catfish between Douglas Lake and Bent Creek (river mile 14.9) will remain in effect.

TDEC says the advisories were extended after studies showed elevated mercury levels in fish located beyond the previous advisory areas. On Cherokee, fish were sampled near the dam (river mile 55) and at U.S. Highway 25E (river mile 76). On the Nolichucky, fish were sampled at Hurley Island (river mile 8.5), upstream of the Conway Bridge (river mile 20.9), Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park (river mile 68), and off of Charlie Carson Road (river mile 83.9).

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The agency urges pregnant or nursing mothers and children to avoid eating the fish species included in the advisories while everyone else should limit their consumption to one meal per month. TDEC added that recreational activities such as boating, swimming, wading, and catch-and-release fishing carry no risk.

“We provide these advisories so the community can make informed decisions about whether or not to consume the fish they catch,” TDEC Deputy Commissioner Greg Young said. “Unlike ‘do not consume’ advisories that warn the general population to avoid eating fish from a particular body of water altogether, precautionary fish consumption advisories are specifically directed to sensitive populations such as children, pregnant women, nursing mothers and those who may eat fish frequently from the same body of water.”

SEE ALSO » U.S. Nitrogen officials say company had no negative impact on nearby Nolichucky River

TDEC says there are two plausible sources of the mercury contamination in the Holston River and Cherokee Lake: the global burning of coal and pollution by the Olin Chlor Alkali plant in Saltville, Virginia during the 1960s and 1970s.

The agency believes the burning of coal is to blame for the mercury contamination in the Nolichucky.

TDEC will be posting signs at public access points to warn people of the extended advisories.

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