Experts in the East respond to study that suggests freshwater fish are highly contaminated with PFAS

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – As people are looking for the next greatest catch, the Environmental Working Group encourages fishers to air on the side of caution.

Washington resident and fisher, Kent Alligood, says “The rockfish have been picking up and doing pretty well. Bites been pretty steady.”

According to the research in the Environmental Working Group’s study, eating just one serving of freshwater fish a year can have the same effect as drinking heavily polluted water with PFAS, known as “forever chemicals,” because they fail to break down easily.

The findings came from evaluating the research of different kinds of PFAS particles in 501 fish fillet samples collected across the United States.

Sound Rivers Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper, Jill Howell says, “PFAS when they end up in our waterways, they can be ingested by fish, and people are ingesting fish, so this is a public health problem.”

Though pollution issues aren’t always visible, the impact can be detrimental.

“The study was incredibly concerning and, in some ways, confirmed what we already know. These contaminants are called forever chemicals for a reason. They were created in a way to make them strong and resistant and to last, which is a problem when they end up where they shouldn’t be because they don’t go away and they bioaccumulate in fish,” Howell says.

According to Howell, PFAS aren’t the only pollution issue to be worried about. “Back in May, there was a major spill at a biogas hog farm operation in Freemont. Their lagoon that stores all of the swine waste, there was a cover over to capture methane and that burst, and out came waste. What we found was an incredible amount of fecal bacteria so things like e. coli and really high levels of nitrogen.”

Since the burst, Howell and Sound Rivers are urging the state to take action; both issues that could have a big impact on the lives of many in Eastern North Carolina.

The research added that locally caught freshwater fish are far more polluted than commercial catches as large-scale ocean fishing often occurs farther offshore, where PFAS pollution would be more diluted.