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  Fish in Richmond Hazardous to Your Health
August 2, 2004

From the Contra Costa County Health Services Department: Contact: Michael Kent 925-313-6587


People who fish in a small area in West Contra Costa County have new signs to warn them that some of the fish they catch are especially dangerous to eat.


Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) has placed signs in Sheridan Park at the mouth of the Inner Richmond Harbor and other key locations. The signs remind people of a special state advisory about five species of fish that contain higher concentrations of the pesticide DDT, PCBs (a synthetic chemical) and other contaminants that are found in fish in other parts of the Bay.  The fish (croakers (kingfish), surfperch, bullhead and gobies) and shellfish tend to stay in the area and continuously ingest the contaminants. The state warning has been in effect since 1994 but new signs were needed to expand the warning into additional areas and more languages, which now include Lao, Cambodian, Tagalog, Chinese and the original Spanish, English and Vietnamese.


Wendel Brunner, MD, County Public Health Director, says the health department wants to be sure that anyone who fishes in the Inner Richmond Harbor knows about the special danger fish caught there might pose. According to him, eating fish contaminated with DDT and PCBs at the levels found in these fish increases the risk of cancer and other long-term effects to where there is no safe level of consumption. There is also a different warning for any fish caught anywhere in the San Francisco Bay.


"Health officials have been warning people who fish about the dangers of eating fish caught in the Bay for years. The general Bay warning says pregnant and breast feeding women and children under six years should eat no more than one meal a month of fish caught in the Bay. Other adults may safety eat up to two meals of fish a month. The special warning about the Inner Richmond Harbor says don't eat any of these five kinds of fish at all," says Brunner.


Michael Kent, the County's Hazardous Materials Ombudsman, says the excessive DDT contamination in the Richmond Harbor area is from United Heckathorn, a defunct chemical plant that is designated as a federal Superfund site.  The source of the PCBs is unknown.


The MA'AT Youth Academy in Richmond, a non-profit organization working on   environmental education, pointed out to CCHS that the warning signs were

not posted in all the areas where people fish.  Working with the City of Richmond, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department of Health

Services and the State's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, CCHS arranged for the new signs to be printed and posted.