PORTLAND -- New research shows alarming levels of toxic chemicals in fish caught in the Columbia River.
Back in July Columbia Riverkeeper tested a sucker fish caught by fisherman Daniel Pop. Pop had caught the fish from the Columbia River Slough, an area he’d fished for about a decade.
The results of those tests surprised even the researchers. They showed the fish contained levels of cancer-causing PCB's that were 273 times higher than the limit considered safe by the EPA.
The tests also revealed arsenic levels in the fish more than 100 times the safe limit.
“When I saw the PCB results it was like really alarming," said Lorrie Epstein, Water Quality Director for Columbia Riverkeeper. "It’s definitely really concerning thinking about consuming these fish,”
And that wasn’t all.
“The fish also has PBDE’s, which are toxic flame retardants that can disrupt endocrine systems and can affect reproductive systems in fish and in people,” she added.
The Dept. of Environmental Quality tells NewsChannel 8 it has found similar levels of toxins in fish tested elsewhere along the Columbia River, and even the Willamette River.
“We're working with companies to try and prevent new pollution sources and we're trying to mitigate the hot spots where the pollution still exists,” said Aaron Borisenko, DEQ’s Water Quality Monitoring Manager.
Borisenko admits it will take decades, if not longer, to bring down those toxic levels. Even though many of the chemicals have been banned, they are still found in sediments and in the water column, and eventually make their way into the food chain.
Columbia Riverkeeper also found high levels of toxins in fish caught near Astoria and Cascade Locks.
A fish advisory is in effect for the Columbia slough, but we could not find any signs warning fisherman about it.