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Some Fish In Charlotte Reservoirs Unsafe To Eat

Dangerous-levels of a cancer-causing chemical have been found in some fish from two popular Charlotte-area reservoirs. WFAE's Julie Rose reports: Health officials in North and South Carolina are warning people to eat little, if any, large mouth bass caught in Lake Wylie or Mountain Island Lake. The fish contain dangerous levels of polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, which can lead to cancer and other health problems in humans. In Mountain Island Lake, officials say eating channel catfish is dangerous, too. PCBs are found in the dirt at the bottom of the lakes and slowly move up the food chain, reaching dangerous levels in predators like catfish and largemouth bass. "Because they're eating smaller fish and living a longer time, they accumulate these chemicals the longer they live and that poses a problem to us later on when we catch them," explains David Merryman of the Catawba Riverkeeper environmental group. Merryman says PCBs do not bind to water in the lakes, so the health warning does not pose a problem for swimmers or the million-plus people who rely on Mountain Island Lake for drinking water. PCBs were common in household appliances and heavy equipment until they were banned in the 70s. But the compound lingers in the environment and has shown up in numerous reservoirs throughout the Carolinas. "We need to find out where this contamination is coming from," says Merryman. "Even though PCBs were outlawed back in the 70s they are a chronic problem now that it's 2011 and we really need to figure out a way to nip this in the bud." Merryman says limited resources have kept the state from doing sufficient testing for PCBs and other contamination. A year ago, the Catawba Riverkeeper commissioned its own study of Mountain Island Lake and found dangerous levels of PCBs. North Carolina health officials followed up with their own investigation and have now issued the first PCB fish consumption warning for the lake.