According to the EPA, “Mercury exposure at high levels can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system of people of all ages.” A potent toxin, mercury is especially dangerous to children and developing fetuses. For more information about mercury from the EPA, click here.
EPA cites coal-burning power plants as the leading source of mercury air emissions, which end up in the tissue of fish people eat. Miller Steam Plant, on the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior, emitted more mercury in 2007 than any other coal-burning power plant in the country, according to EPA data compiled by the Environmental Integrity Project. Gorgas Steam Plant ranked 28th in this category (Total Mercury Pounds Emitted: 2007). In the category of “Top 50 US Power Plant Mercury Emitters by Pounds per GWh: 2007” Greene County Steam Plant ranked 8th, Miller Steam Plant ranked 15th, and Gorgas Steam Plant ranked 19th.
For human consumption guidelines of mercury levels in different species of fish, please click here. Most of Alabama is blessed with clean water, and the fish in these waters are safe for eating. There are a few water bodies, however, where the Alabama Department of Public Health advises that fish not be consumed. The latest information may be obtained by calling 1-800-201-8208. (Source: Basic Fishing by Doug Darr, pg. 13, March 30, 2009: http://www.outdooralabama.com/fishing/freshwater/fishingtips/fishingTips.pdf). More information on Alabama fish consumption advisories is available online. For an overview, visit: http://adph.org/tox/assets/FishAdvisoryInfo.pdf. For the latest ADPH fish consumption advisory, visit: http://www.adph.org/tox/index.asp?formid=565&id=1360
Citizen fishing on Village Creek near Alabama Power’s Miller Steam Plant (Jefferson Co.)
Photo by David Whiteside.