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Feb-05-2012 12:33printcomments

Fishy Border Contamination

"The possession of contaminated fish taken from the reservoir is prohibited by the TDSHS" - EPA

Fishing at Donna Reservoir
Fishing at Donna Reservoir, courtesy:

(LAS CRUCES, N.M.) - In the latest chapter of a long-running border environmental mystery, U.S. federal and state officials plan a visit to south Texas this coming week.

Representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) are expected to be in the area around South Alamo, Texas, from February 6 to 12. The purpose of their trip is to inform residents about the risk of eating contaminated fish from the Donna Reservoir and Canal.

Located in Hidalgo County just north of the Rio Grande, the Donna Reservoir and Canal is an EPA Superfund site.

Historically used to supply drinking and irrigation water to the surrounding region, the 400-acre reservoir and connecting canal system were put on a federal priority list for action in 2007.

The listing came after excessive levels of chemical PCBs were detected in fish beginning nearly two decades ago. Sampling by the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife has documented the presence of PCBs in the tissue of fish from the Donna site.

Government authorities announced their intention of removing all the large fish several years ago. Yet reports of locals fishing the site persist to this day.

"The possession of contaminated fish taken from the reservoir is prohibited by the TDSHS," the EPA said in a news release.

Although the Donna fish story has been flopping around for many years, the source of the PCB contamination is still not publicly known. Banned in 1977, PCB chemicals were once widely used in the manufacture of electrical transmitters, plastics, paints and other products. A known human carcinogen, PCBs are linked to a host of other health problems. According to the EPA, eating contaminated fish could result in nausea, vomiting, abdominal pains, rashes, and acne, as well as cancer.

Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.