AKWESASNE – The New York Department of Health has issued an advisory that fish on the American side of the St. Lawrence River around Cornwall Island are unfit for consumption due to high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and mercury.
According to the advisory, fish from the Massena Power Canal, to the Grasse River, out to the south side of Cornwall Island should not be consumed.
The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe’s (SRMT) Environment Division, which manages that part of Akwesasne territory applauded the decision.
“The latest information issued by the New York State Health Department is recognition of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe’s efforts to protect community health,” stated SRMT Environment Division Director Tony David. David added, “Fish are an important food source for Akwesasne residents; however, restrictions on consumption of locally caught fish are still necessary due to the lasting impacts of local pollution. I thank the Department of Health and other state agencies for echoing our recommendations in a spirit of partnership that protects public health, as our waterways recover.”
The Ontario Ministry of the Environment states that these concerns do not extend to the Canadian side of the St. Lawrence River in this area.
“The changes in the advisories on the New York side of the river near Cornwall are based on elevated polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) levels,” said Ministry of the Environment Communications Officer Gary Wheeler in an emailed statement to Seaway News. “Monitoring work conducted by New York found higher PCB levels in the river at Massena/Akwesasne, which is a U.S. Area of Concern. A study found much lower PCB levels in fish outside of this area. This finding has been reflected in the Ontario data. The fish eating advisories issued by Ontario consider measurements of a variety of contaminants including PCB and mercury.”
Wheeler said that in general, contanimant levels in the river on the Canadian side have been steadily declining.
“In general, levels of contaminants have declined in fish from the Ontario waters of the St. Lawrence River since the 1970s,” he said. “There are no significant changes in the published advisories in the recent years.”
For more information about what fish are safe to eat on the Ontario side of the St. Lawrence River in the Cornwall area, please refer to this Ministry of the Environment map.