Saginaw Bay/River Fish 'Tainting' Issue Seems to be Resolved

The Saginaw Bay/River Area of Concern (AOC) now has one less beneficial use impairment (BUI) with the Dec. 22 announcement that the Tainting of Fish and Wildlife Flavor BUI has been removed. The Saginaw Bay/River is one of Michigan’s 14 AOCs, or "toxic hot spots," because the river and bay have suffered from historic pollution problems.

The Saginaw Bay/River area was listed for fish tainting because fish caught in the 1940s through the 1970s were frequently reported as having an odd smell or taste. The cause of the tainting was likely related to untreated municipal and industrial discharges. Pollution reduction regulations, source control programs, and remedial actions accomplished since the 1970s have addressed significant sources of pollutants causing or contributing to fish tainting, and recent surveys present a weight of evidence that the problem has been resolved.

Fish consumption advisories still exist in the Saginaw Bay/River AOC mainly because of historic discharges of PCBs, dioxins, and mercury, however, these chemicals are not known to cause odd smells or tastes in fish. Fish that have no odd smell or taste can still contain levels of these contaminants that are harmful to one’s health, and thus be subject to fish consumption advisories. Anyone fishing in the area is encouraged to check the Michigan Family Fish Consumption Guide for fish advisories in the Saginaw Bay Watershed.

"We are excited to celebrate another achievement in the renewal of Saginaw Bay," said Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Director Steven E. Chester. "We remain committed to these efforts that are protecting and restoring the waters and the wildlife within the Saginaw Bay area."

"When Saginaw Bay was first identified as an AOC, it was common to catch fish that had an odd smell or taste," said U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Lynn Buhl. "Eliminating this widespread problem is an excellent example of how the state and U.S. EPA can make significant progress by working together."

Despite an overall success in removing the Fish Tainting BUI, fish having an off taste or odor may occasionally be caught. The DEQ is asking anyone that catches a fish that smells or tastes bad to contact the DEQ, Bay City Operations Service Center, 503 North Euclid Avenue, Suite 1, Bay City, MI 48706; or call 989-686-8025, Ext. 8380.

Information about Michigan's AOC Program is posted on the DEQ Web site at http://www.michigan.gov/deqwater, select Great Lakes, and then Areas of Concern. Information about the Great Lakes is available on the EPA's Web site at http://www.epa.gov/grtlakes.

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