Wheeler Lake sinks deeper into the toxic depths

Wheeler Lake in North Alabama is a popular location for many national circuit tournaments as well as state and national high school and college events with a high number of participants. This tournament activity is in addition to area and local circuit fishing tournaments, area club tournaments and individual fishermen. Some release everything caught and some rely on their catch for dinner.

I really wonder how many anglers, out of the hundreds fishing in these tournaments, and the scores of leisure fishermen have any idea about what they are casting their lures into and the possibility of putting toxic fish into the livewells. I doubt very many do.

Let me point out that the intense area of toxic water is located on the south side of Wheeler Lake at Decatur downstream of the Decatur Utilities Wastewater Treatment Plant and industrial discharges downstream from the plant.

Southern Fishing News’ warning sign.

In the areas of major concern, the “intense” presence of toxic chemicals in the water and sediment is having an impact on fish as well as wildlife,  other aquatic animals and organisms.

We know fish move around in a body of water. Movements of several miles are not uncommon. So, avoiding fish in the warning area will not guarantee a fisherman is handling a “clean” fish. In addition, the water flowing through the toxic area does not stop at that point. That begs an answer to the question: “How far downstream does the toxins go in higher than acceptable amounts?” Continuing that question, is the toxic water making its way into Wilson Lake downstream?

So far I have presented facts and a couple of questions probably not new to you the reader. Alas, there is more.

You may find reviewing prior Southern Fishing News stories and posts relating to the problem helpful should you not be fully aware of the Wheeler Lake toxic issue. I will bring more recent findings to light in the paragraphs following.

COMMENTARY ON PFOS PART ONE: What is PFOS and are there any dangers: https://southernfishingnews.com/news-stories/commentary-on-pfos-part-one-what-is-pfos-and-are-there-any-dangers

COMMENTARY PART TWO: PFOS and the Fisherman: https://southernfishingnews.com/news-stories/commentary-part-two-pfos-and-the-fisherman

Part of Wheeler Lake “Toxified”: What now: https://southernfishingnews.com/news-stories/part-of-wheeler-lake-toxified-what-now

One year later toxins discovered in Wheeler Lake: https://southernfishingnews.com/news-stories/one-year-later-toxins-discovered-in-wheeler-lake

Veteran angler comments about Alabama’s Wheeler Lake contamination: https://southernfishingnews.com/news-stories/veteran-angler-comments-about-alabamas-wheeler-lake-contamination

EPA Health Advisories Impact North Alabama Water Systems: https://southernfishingnews.com/news-stories/epa-health-advisories-impact-north-alabama-water-systems

Two Morgan County, Alabama permit requests to Alabama Department of Environmental Management: https://southernfishingnews.com/news-stories/two-morgan-county-alabama-permit-requests-to-alabama-department-of-environmental-management

2016 Alabama fish consumption/contamination advisories: https://southernfishingnews.com/news-stories/2016-alabama-fish-consumptioncontamination-advisories

Map of the ADPH advisory. SNF enhanced TVA maps/

A study details the extent of pollution in Wheeler Lake according to a report by Al Whitaker, WHNT television, Huntsville, AL on July 26, 2017,

Whitaker reported researchers at Auburn University had published an important paper on pollution in the Tennessee River at Decatur. “We knew it was bad. We just didn’t know it was this bad,” Whitaker reported.

The report referenced by Whitaker was the “Novel Polyfluorinated Compounds Identified Using High Resolution Mass Spectrometry Downstream of Manufacturing Facilities near Decatur, Alabama” that he reported had also shown-up recently in the publication Environmental Science and Technology. Whitaker reported that the report, “… proves what we’ve suspected all along. The pollution in Wheeler Lake on the Tennessee River is already well above a very dangerous level.”

The results were based on water and sediment samples taken from ten different locations along Wheeler Lake in the Decatur area. The water and

Fishermen could unknowingly be fishing in PFOS contaminated water.

sediment samples were tested for the presence of PFOA, PFOS and other PFC compounds.

The stunning revelation provided by the study, as Whitaker noted, “…were the cumulative totals in the water ranged from a low of 32.5 parts per trillion to a high of 754 parts per trillion. And that is high.”

The most alarming numbers, according to the report, were revealed in the sediment samples where the totals ranged from 222 parts per trillion to more than 47,000 parts per trillion. The EPA’s standard is no more than 70 parts per trillion is allowed for drinking water. You may recall the emergency created when the Lawrence County Water Department discovered high amounts of the toxin in their drinking water.

As noted in the Southern Fishing News referenced stories above, the toxins are entering the water at the Decatur Wastewater Treatment plant, discharges from industry in the Decatur area, runoff from sludge deposited and stored on former farmland, and from the Decatur Landfill.

The report, “…confirms not just the presence of various PFC compounds like PFOA and PFOS. It revealed the quantity of the compounds in the river water and the sediment on the river bottom. But more than that, it reveals the presence of previously unknown PFC compounds.”

What is alarming is that, according to the WHNT story, “These are newer compounds believed to have been created to replace the older and more controversial compounds PFOA and PFOS. And little to nothing is known about what effect these newer compounds may have on the environment or those who are exposed to them.”

Potential lethal results from drinking water contaminated with PFOA/PFOS above new EPA standards.

As stated in the earlier Southern Fishing News stories, regardless of the 3M claims to the contrary, these toxins have been linked to various cancers and health problems.

Just handling the fish caught from the toxic water as well as the water itself can put you at risk. The toxins stored in the flesh of fish and consumed by humans is another, and is possibly the worst exposure besides drinking the water. These toxins reportedly can affect human genes.
The PFOS and PFOA toxins do not dissolve well in water and are very persistent. And if these and other new-found toxins continue to be pumped and drained into Wheeler Lake the contamination will only be higher.

Anyone remember Love Canal?


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