Region 1 Fish Tissue Contamination QA Plan
Fish Tissue Contamination in Maine Lakes Data Report
DiFranco, J.L., L.C. Bacon, B.F. Mower and D.L. Courtemanch
State of Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Land and Water Quality, Division of Environmental Assessment, State House Station 17, Augusta, Maine 04333. September 1995
Since the late 1970's, high levels of mercury and other contaminants have been found in some Maine fish, including fish caught in remote lakes. In 1991, studies were begun to investigate why Maine's bald eagle populations are reproducing much more slowly than those in other parts of the United States. These studies revealed some of the highest concentrations of mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in nesting eaglets ever reported in the literature. In addition, high levels of mercury and other contaminants have recently been found in fish from many states and provinces, resulting in fish consumption advisories.
These findings increased concern about the potential risks to fish and wildlife resources, and to human health. Exposure to high levels of mercury, for example, is known to cause neurological and reproductive disorders in humans and wildlife. PCBs are known to be carcinogenic. These and other toxic substances accumulate in living tissue, and concentrations are magnified at higher trophic levels in the food chain. There is growing evidence that contamination of fish in remote lakes is due to long range transport of airborne toxics from more highly developed and industrial areas to the south and west of Maine, including New England. Previously, there were very few data to determine the extent of the problem, or to identify the sources and mechanisms of contamination.
In 1993, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) initiated a study to measure levels of contamination in fish populations in the State's lakes and ponds, in order to determine the potential risks to both ecological and human health. The Fish Tissue Contamination in Maine Lakes project was funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of the Regional Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (REMAP). DEP worked in cooperation with EPA New England, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (DIFW), the Maine Department of Human Services Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory (HEtL), and the National Biological Survey and Sawyer Environmental Chemistry Laboratories at the University of Maine at Orono (UMO).