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State Says Fish in Gila River Now Safe to Eat

The state of Arizona says the fish in the Gila River and its tributaries are safe to eat, removing a decades-old consumption advisory. Credit: Apollob66/iStockphoto.
The state of Arizona says the fish in the Gila River and its tributaries are safe to eat, removing a decades-old consumption advisory. Credit: Apollob66/iStockphoto.
October 1, 2015

PHOENIX – For the first time in decades, fish in the Gila River and its tributaries are now safe to eat.

That's according to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, which lifted a fish consumption advisory that had been in place for 24 years, mainly because farmers phased out toxic pesticides such as DDT in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

Sandy Bahr, chapter director of the Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter, says this proves government-led environmental cleanups can truly make a difference.

"This demonstrates how important the Clean Water Act is," she says. "That's the law under which the Gila was listed as impaired, and why there was a fish advisory in the first place. Very important as a way to get water cleaned up."

Tests in the 1990s found Gila River fish had 160 times the safe level of toxic chemicals. By 2011 it was down to 16 times the limit. Recent tests show fish in the waters in Phoenix and downstream are now OK to catch and eat.

Bahr says she sees some irony in the good news, because the state of Arizona has sued the EPA over the Waters of the United States rule, which extends Clean Water Act authority to headwaters and seasonal streams.

"A number of the state legislators and others have sent messages about how they don't want Arizona to have significant coverage under the Clean Water Act," she says. "In fact, some of them think it doesn't apply at all."

The State Department of Environmental Quality still advises against eating fish from 13 other rivers and lakes in Arizona, mainly because of mercury pollution.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ