Warning: Some Columbia River Fish Not Safe To Eat

By Anna King

Some fish in the Columbia River aren’t safe to eat. That’s according to an advisories today from health officials in Washington and Oregon. 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 PCB’s. 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.

Paul Lomley: “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. 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.

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