"Get the Mercury out of our Fish" Campaign
The Delta Chapter Sierra Club continues a campaign to hold state agencies accountable for testing fish across the state for mercury contamination, for issuing fish consumption advisories in a prompt and responsible manner, for notifying the public of fish advisories, for testing the human population for mercury poisoning due to eating fish, and for identifying sources of mercury to the environment and working to reduce emissions.
The Delta Chapter Sierra Club worked closely with LWF and other conservation organizations to help the Louisiana Departments of Environmental Quality (LDEQ), Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), and Health and Hospitals (LDHH) to obtain funds from the Legislature to expand their mercury testing program and provide public education on mercury. We produced a fact sheet on mercury contamination, and distributed it at the Louisiana
Environmental Educators Symposium, Louisiana Hunting and Fishing Day, Earth Day events, and meetings and talks to other groups. We also participated in writing two brochures printed by the state agencies and distributed to o.b. doctors and pediatricians, public health units, fishers, and the general public.
Working with LWF and other hunting and fishing groups, the Delta Chapter Sierra Club wrote letters requesting signs at government-operated boat landings advising fishers of fish consumption advisories, and demanded replies and justification for refusal from LDEQ, LDWF, and LDHH. The Louisiana Wildlife Federation (LWF) passed a resolution supporting the request, as did the St. Tammany Parish Police Jury. This issue is ongoing, as the LDEQ has tentatively agreed to honor the request, but signs have yet to be placed. The Delta Chapter Sierra Club birddogged LDHH to ensure that a survey of mercury in human blood took place and was publicized. We continue to call for the release of the LDHH report on the results of their survey.
Dr. Barry Kohl presented a talk on mercury pollution in the Pearl River at a Sierra Club-sponsored conference "Rivers of the Florida Parishes: Water Quality, Past, Present, and Future." Dr. Kohl has also begun investigating sources of mercury contamination in sediments by obtaining data from LDEQ and making a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request of the Coast Guard.
The Delta Chapter Sierra Club kept informed of LDEQ's placement of wet deposition monitors to track mercury contamination in air as part of the National Atmospheric Deposition Program. We also wrote to DEQ requesting that they map known possible sources of mercury. They promptly complied with this request and presented the results at the Tulane Environmental Law Conference in February 1998. Although LDWF wished to remove all information on fish consumption advisories from the Fishing Regulations rule book, Sierra Club action ensured that this important information remained in the book and available to fishers.
Delta Chapter Sierra Club has continued to press for advisories where needed, reviewing LDEQ data and questioning LDHH advisory decisions. Delta Chapter Sierra Club has worked successfully with other organizations to educate the public about mercury contamination in fish. The Delta Chapter Sierra Club and LWF released two national reports, "Gone Fishing," and "Fish Without Fear", which received press and television coverage in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.