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Tests reveal PCBs in Pa. hatchery trout

April 13, 1999|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Tests at Pennsylvania's largest trout hatchery showed cancer-causing PCBs in fish that are routinely stocked in local streams, the state Department of Environmental Protection announced Monday.

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But two longtime fishing buddies said Tuesday they don't think the reports will have much affect on the trout fishing season, which opens Saturday.

Joe Spangler, 78, and Glen Bricker, 51, both of Waynesboro, have stocked trout in area streams for years for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

On Monday state officials said results of laboratory tests at the Huntsdale Fish Culture Station showed that fish there had been contaminated with PCBs.

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Some Huntsdale fish ended up in popular trout streams in Franklin and Fulton counties, including the east and west branches of Conococheague and Antietam creeks, which flow into Washington County.

The tests were the first ever performed at state hatcheries. Previously, commission employees took fish samples from lakes and streams for testing as part of ongoing monitoring, but fish being raised in the hatcheries were excluded.

The decision to begin testing hatchery trout this year was not prompted by any particular concern about their condition but reflected general concern about the effect of pollution on trout, said commission spokesman Dan Tredinnick.

Trout samples from Huntsdale showed low levels of PCBs typical of chemicals found in electrical transformers and industrial lubricants, DEP spokeswoman Karen Sitler said Tuesday. PCBs have been banned since 1977.

The source of the pollutants is unknown. Water is fed into the hatchery from Yellow Breeches Creek southwest of Harrisburg, Pa.

Fish from three other hatcheries were tested along with trout from Huntsdale. None of those samples was found to be contaminated, probably indicating that the contamination came from the water in the Huntsdale hatchery and not the food that is fed to the fish, Tredinnick said.

Follow-up tests on trout already stocked will begin this week but won't be finished in time for Saturday's opening day of trout season, said DEP spokeswoman April Linton.

She said an advisory has been issued warning people to eat only one trout per month from any of the suspected streams.

PCBs accumulate in the body tissue of fish. Trout in hatcheries are not released until they are adults, giving the pollutant more time to become concentrated.

It takes 18 months to raise a trout to catchable size, about 12 inches.

The PCB levels in the Huntsdale fish were 0.4 parts per million - one-fifth of the maximum level that the Food and Drug Administration considers safe for human consumption in fish sold commercially. The state does not use the FDA guidelines for sport fishing.

Spangler and Bricker said they didn't think the contamination will have much effect on fishing.

"It's being blown out of proportion," Bricker said. "The testing is just beginning. It might stop some people."

He said he eats some of the fish he catches and releases others.

Spangler said he thinks the advisory will have little effect unless tests prove it is dangerous to eat the fish.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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