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Cordell Hull Lake fish pass test

By Eddie West

Staff Writer

Fish from the Cordell Hull Lake have tested clean for potentially harmful contaminants, according to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).

In 2020 and 2021, fish were tested at two locations on the Cordell Hull Lake and “no contaminants of concern were identified”, according to TDEC.

Species of fish tested included bass, crappie and catfish, according to TDEC.

Questions concerning the safety of consumption of fish on area lakes was raised when TDEC recently announced a precautionary “fish consumption advisory” for three reservoirs in the mid-state.

Of main concern for local fishermen was Center Hill Lake, a common fishing destination for many Smith County fishermen.

Other reservoirs included Dale Hollow Lake and Cheatham Lake.

The fish consumption advisory on Center Hill Lake/Reservoir pertained to the levels of mercury found in black bass including largemouth, spotted and smallmouth.

The advisory noted .3 mg/kg (parts per million) mercury level in fish tissue tested.

The advisory warning was limited to “pregnant women, nursing mothers and children”, who should not eat these species of fish.

In addition, the advisory was clear in noting water recreation such as fishing (catch and release), boating, swimming, wading and kayaking continued to be safe on reservoirs.

The testing did not include fish in rivers below the reservoirs.

Lakes and species include in the “fish consumption advisory”:

•Center Hill Lake—black bass species including largemouth, spotted and smallmouth.

•Dale Hollow Lake—walleye, black bass species (largemouth, spotted and smallmouth).

•Cheatham Reservoir—black bass (largemouth, spotted and smallmouth); catfish.

•Source of contaminants—TDEC identifies the source of mercury in the reservoirs  to be atmospheric decomposition. The Environmental Protection Agency says atmospheric decomposition due to the global burning of coal is the most frequent reason for elevated levels of mercury in fish.

•A “fish consumption advisory”—The Tennessee Water Quality Control Act identifies the commissioner of the Department of Environment and Conservation as having the authority and responsibility to issue advisories for either water contact hazards like pathogens or excessive health risks due to the accumulation of contaminants in fish and shellfish. Tennessee’s Water Quality Criteria provide additional guidance regarding the conditions under which advisories may be warranted. “Do not consume” fishing advisories are issued when levels of contaminants in fish tissue would represent a threat to the general population. Precautionary advisories are issued when contaminant levels are lower but would still pose a risk to sensitive subpopulations such as children, pregnant women, nursing mothers and those who eat fish frequently from the same body of water. Where new advisories have been issued, TDEC will immediately begin the process of putting up signs at primary public access points. TDEC works in partnership with the TWRA to communicate information about fishing advisories.

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