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State issues “do not eat” advisory for contaminated fish caught in the Clark Fork

Sally Mauk

The state issued an advisory today against eating northern pike caught in a 105-mile stretch of the Clark Fork river from Missoula to Paradise.

The advisory includes limiting consumption of rainbow trout caught in that same stretch to no more than four meals a month. The warning comes in the wake of a spring study of fish immediately downstream from the old Smurfit Stone container mill site in Frenchtown. State fisheries pollution biologist Trevor Selch says they found the fish contain dangerous levels of contaminants like dioxins and PCB's associated with the pulp and paper mill industry.

"The northern pike had the highest concentration levels that we felt were high enough that we issued a 'do not eat' advisory," said Selch. "And the rainbow trout had [lesser] levels of the same contaminants so we issued a 4-meal a month advisory for them."

The contaminants found in the northern pike and rainbow trout have been linked to causing everything from birth defects to cancer in humans. The advisory was issued by the state Fish, Wildlife and Parks department, along with the Departments of Health and Environmental Quality. It applies to 105 miles of the Clark Fork river from its confluence with the Bitterroot river near Missoula to its confluence with the Flathead river near Paradise. Selch says they did not test other species of fish but he expects further testing in the future, especially if the old mill site is designated a Superfund site.

Retired in 2014 but still a presence at MTPR, Sally Mauk is a University of Kansas graduate and former wilderness ranger who has reported on everything from the Legislature to forest fires.
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