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Warning: Some Columbia River Fish Not Safe To Eat

US Army Corps of Engineers

New advisories from health officials in Washington and Oregon warn that some fish in the Columbia River aren’t safe to eat.

The warnings do not apply to ocean-going fish like salmon and steelhead.

The advisories are for a 150-mile stretch between Bonneville Dam and McNary Dam. In the one mile closest to Bonneville, health officials warn against eating any fish because of PCBs. And in the rest of that watery span, they recommend no more than one serving of fish per week because of mercury.

The warning doesn’t apply to salmon, steelhead, lamprey and American shad because they spend most of their lives outside the Columbia.

Even so, Paul Lumley says the pollution problem is unacceptable. He represents four Northwest tribes with fishing rights on the Columbia.

“They’ve been working so hard with all these other agencies to help implement good laws like the clean water act, to make sure that we have cleaner water in the future," Lumley says. "And it’s just not working – we have to do more.”

Oregon toxicologist David Farrer says the pollution may have come from coal burning plants and other industries. He says the rest of the Columbia River -- and its tributaries -- could have problems too, but there’s not enough data to determine that.

On the Web:

Lower Columbia River advisory - Oregon Health Authority 

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.