June 01, 2013

Fish, Rats, and Phone Calls: Developing Water Quality Criteria to Protect Human Health

Winston K. Borkowski

Ordering Chilean sea bass at a trendy bistro or a grouper sandwich from a favorite dockside dive may seem harmless enough, but each delicious bite of flakey fish has a story, and it may not be a story you want to hear. Fish live in water and untold combinations of environmental contaminants are lawfully discharged into our nation’s waters from domestic and industrial wastewater facilities. Municipal stormwater systems also transport contaminants from streets, curbs, and gutters to local waters. Routine agricultural operations may generate a variety of pollutants and pesticides, some of which may ultimately end up in nearby rivers and streams, lakes and estuaries. Legacy pollutants from decades past may linger in soil and sediment. It is a fact of modern industrial life that chemical contaminants associated with essential, lawful, and highly regulated activities may be lost to nearby waters and found by the fish and shellfish that call those waters home.

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