Connecticut DPH and DEEP issue advisory on fish caught in Hockanum River

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HARTFORD, Conn.–The Connecticut Department of Health and Energy and Conservation today issued a dietary recommendation for fish caught in the Hockanum River. This consumption recommendation is based on elevated levels of per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) in fish tissue samples taken from the Hockanum River in Vernon.

Based on the locations identified by DEEP, DPH recommends NOT eating fish from:

The Hockanum River begins below Shenipsit Lake Dam (Tolland Ave, Vernon) to the Connecticut River, including the Papermill Pond river impoundments (including Pitney Park, Vernon)

Union Pond (Manchester)

Several small impoundments or ponds on the Hockanum River (East Hartford)

The Tankerhoosen River (from the Hockanum River upstream to the dam at Main Street)

The Hockanum River and its tributaries are in the cities of Vernon, Manchester, Ellington and East Hartford.

DPH works closely with DEEP who have identified the locations where the fish advice has been given based on their fisheries expertise and knowledge of the case details. Surface water samples collected with fish tissue at Vernon below Shenipsit Lake met drinking water guidelines.

This recommendation does not apply to Lake Shenipsit and does not affect the public drinking water supply. The most recent drinking water sample collected by Connecticut Water Company showed no PFAS above laboratory limits.

The recommendation to eat fish is based on recently obtained and validated fish tissue results. Fish samples were collected in Vernon between Route 74 and Dart Hill Road in September 2021. A total of 30 fish from three species – American Eel, Fallfish and White Sucker – were analyzed for PFAS concentrations. Tissue samples showed PFAS at levels above levels considered safe for human consumption by DPH. PFAS levels in White Sucker were slightly lower than the other species tested.

This recommendation is based on a limited sample size and is issued with great caution. The Hockanum River data was collected by a consultant contracted by DEEP as part of a large, statewide study to assess the presence of PFAS in the state’s wastewater catchments. The study was initiated in response to the Governor’s Interagency PFAS Action Plan, which recommended assessment of PFAS levels in fish from Connecticut waters. The study is still ongoing, with final results expected by the end of 2022. DEEP plans to conduct additional monitoring along the Hockanum River to better understand water quality conditions and potential sources of the PFAS.

DPH and DEEP wish to emphasize that while fish in the Hockanum River are not suitable for consumption, recreational activities such as fishing (catch and release only) and boating are safe.

DEEP stocked the Hockanum River with 2,059 trout earlier this spring (March 4 and 23) before receiving data showing elevated levels of PFAS in river fish in the region. Anglers are strongly advised to either strictly practice catch-and-release fishing in the areas subject to this recommendation or to fish in other nearby waters that are also stocked with trout. These locations can be viewed on the interactive DEEP trout stock map www.ct.gov/deep/troutstockingmaps. There will be no additional trout stocking in the Hockanum River or Lower Tankerhoosen River this spring.

The Manchester Health Department, North Central Health Department and East Hartford Health Department are putting up signs along the Hockanum River and at each of the above locations to remind the public of the current recommendation.

It is also important to note that there is other pre-existing nationwide advice that is in place including:

Freshwater Fish: The advice for freshwater fish caught in Connecticut for pregnant women and children (high-risk groups) is to eat no more than one meal per month. For all other groups, it is recommended to eat no more than one meal of freshwater fish per week. This statewide recommendation is due to mercury contamination found in Connecticut freshwater fish. This national recommendation does not apply to sunfish or trout, as there are no consumption restrictions for these fish species.

Long-term exposure to PFAS can be associated with elevated cholesterol and liver enzymes, an altered immune response, an increased risk of high blood pressure and/or preeclampsia during pregnancy, and an increased risk of thyroid disease, developmental disabilities, and cancer, particularly kidney and testicular cancer.

For more information on DPH fish consumption recommendations, visit: https://portal.ct.gov/fish or by calling a DPH representative at 1-877-458-FISH (3474).

For more information on the City of East Hartford’s PFAS, click here.

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