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September 9, 1998

Contact: Geoffrey Ryan, NYCDEP (718/595-5371)
Robert R. Hinckley, NYSDOH (518/474-7354)

Mercury in Smallmouth Bass Leads to New Fish Consumption Advisory for Rondout Reservoir

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) and New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) announced today that, of 73 fish collected in the Rondout Reservoir by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and NYCDEP, three smallmouth bass had mercury levels exceeding the federal marketplace standard of 1.0 part per million (ppm). Those three smallmouth bass were over 16 inches in length and averaged 1.3 ppm mercury, while the ten shorter bass had mercury levels below the standard. Other fish species sampled included lake trout, brown trout, brown bullhead, carp, chain pickerel, white sucker and yellow perch; none of these fish had mercury levels greater than the standard. Water from the Rondout, Neversink and other reservoirs in the New York City public water supply system meets the state and federal standard for mercury in drinking water, which is 2 parts per billion (ppb).

Based on the new data, NYSDOH issued an advisory to EAT NO MORE THAN ONE MEAL PER MONTH of smallmouth bass over 16 inches from the Rondout Reservoir. Earlier this summer, NYSDOH issued an advisory to EAT NO MORE THAN ONE MEAL PER MONTH of smallmouth bass (all sizes) from the Neversink Reservoir, also due to mercury contamination. Women of childbearing age, infants and children under the age of 15 are advised to EAT NO fish from the Neversink and Rondout Reservoirs. The NYSDOH general advisory for sportfish is that you eat no more than one meal (½ pound) per week of fish taken from any of the state's freshwaters and some marine waters at the mouth of the Hudson River. When fish have contaminant levels greater than federal marketplace standards, NYSDOH issues specific advisories for that water body.

Most of the mercury in the edible flesh of fish is in the form of methylmercury, an organic (carbon containing) form. Methylmercury concentrations are typically much higher in fish than in the water in which they live. In most waters, smallmouth bass tend to have higher methylmercury levels than other fish in the same waters.

Copies of brochures which describe the NYSDOH fish advisories for the New York City reservoir system (including the Rondout and Neversink Reservoirs) are available at kiosks placed around the Neversink Reservoir, soon to be placed around the Rondout Reservoir, and at NYCDEP permit offices in Ashokan, Prattsville, Grahamsville, Downsville and Carmel.

People with questions about the New York City reservoir system can call the New York City Department of Environmental Protection at 718-DEP-HELP (718-337-4357) or visit DEP On-line at Call NYSDOH at 1-800-458-1158, extension 409 for a free booklet which contains fish advisories for the entire state or for additional information about the fish advisories. The full advisories are also available on the Internet: or can be requested by e-mail:


More Information

NYC Department of Environmental Protection
Public Affairs

59-17 Junction Boulevard
19th Floor
Flushing, NY 11373

(718) 595-6600