Public meetings, designed to discuss the results of the Grand Lake Watershed Mercury study, will take place at 11:45 a.m., Wednesday, June 12, at the Wyandotte Tribal Nutrition Center, Wyandotte, 3 p.m., Wednesday, June 12, at the GRDA Ecosystems Center, in Langley, and at 2 p.m. Thursday, June 13, at the Peoria Tribal Office in Miami.
The study, which began in 2010, was designed to analyze the amount of mercury in fish within the Grand Lake watershed.
This came after the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality announced a warning for pregnant women, women of childbearing age and children under 15 to limit their fish consumption from all bodies of water the state.
“We believed many of the lakes closer to Texas would be receiving a lot of mercury from the power plant emissions with winds from Texas. But we wondered how much would be found in the fish in Grand Lake since we do have six coal burning power plants within a 60 mile radius of the Grand Lake Watershed,” Jim said, “and if there was really mercury, was it in all fish.
“We felt that residents would want to know what they are eating and how safe it is for women and children.”
The study found that the levels of mercury in local fisheries are “not scary high” explained Jim.
“We found mercury in the Grand Lake Watershed fish, and we expected we might.,” Jim said. “(We were) not surprised, but relieved that the levels of most fish are not scary high. But levels are of concern and will require fish eaters to think more about the species and size of fish they are eating or feeding women of childbearing age or pregnant and children under 15 years of age, to protect them from the long term effects of consuming mercury.”
During the meetings, Dr. Laurel Schaider will present the results of the study. Which will include some of the scientific
“Lots of the science will be presented,,” Jim said. “The residents and fish eating public have a right to know what we have found and to then be able to make their own personal decisions on the fish they eat.”
The study was funded through a grant by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. It will officially end on June 30.
L.E.A.D. Agency, Local Environmental Action Demanded, worked on the study along with researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and the OU Health Sciences Center.
Rebecca Jim, executive director of L.E.A.D. Agency, said the group recruited more than 150 people who eat local fish to participate in the study.
“We met with them every three months for a year to complete a food frequency questionnaire and collect a small hair sample to analyze for mercury,” Jim said. “We encouraged local fishermen and women to donate parts of their fish to be analyzed for mercury. “
Partners with the OU Health Sciences Center collected the fish, and prepared the final samples for testing at the Harvard School of Public Health, so all hair and fish samples were analyzed there by research teams.