Fish in Kern County waterways; Safe to eat?

Fish in Kern County waterways; Safe to eat?
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - For sport or dinner it seems Lake Truxtun has become a popular spot for fishermen. Sandwiched between a highway and industry - the location left some asking if fish caught there are really safe to eat.

For fishermen like Aaron Fluker there is nothing more exciting than a day on the lake. It's an adventure that starts with having the right equipment. Fluker said a fresh catch served up for dinner was a definite bonus.

"There is nothing like fresh caught fish. Take it home--sometimes I like to fillet it," Fluker said

Neither Fluker nor others really had thought about how safe their catch was for dinner. Our quest for answers began with determining where the water came from.

Jason Meadors is the director the city's water resources department.

The dept. is responsible for monitoring and maintaining the water in Lake Truxtun. Meadors said the lake is filled with water from the Kern River.

The department also uses a solar powered device to circulate the water. It's a process that keeps algae from developing and eating up the oxygen needed by fish. Water samples are taken every 6 months to monitor the quality.

Water from the Kern River channel comes with Bluegill, Catfish, Carp and Trout. Fishermen journey hundreds of miles just to fish in Kern County.

Danny Zide is part of the team at the Kernville Hatchery. Zide makes sure the fish used to stock local waterways are fed and monitored. According to Dept. of Fish and Game, the fish are tested to ensure they are healthy and safe to eat.

During our investigation we found that fish are not monitored once they are planted in their desired location. We wanted to find out if fish at Lake Truxtun were as safe now as when they left the hatchery.
After finding an approved Dept of Public Health lab, a fish caught in the lake was sent to be tested.

The lab conducted a series of EPA tests measuring levels of metals like mercury. It also examined the fish tissue and skin for pesticides commonly used in Kern County.

But what levels does the state consider safe for consumption? Finding that answer provided its own challenges.

According to a spokesperson with the California Environmental Protection Agency which regulates sports fishing, the agency has not developed specific safe eating guidelines for fish caught at Lake Truxtun or in the Kern River.

Its website does show guidelines in place in dozens of waterways in other parts of the state.

The EPA did offer a general guide on fish contaminants across California.

We also acquired guidelines used by the FDA.

Test results from the lab show levels of metals in the fish tissue and skin were indeed acceptable for human consumption.

Results of the organics test did reveal a non-harmful, ultra trace levels of DDE which is a remnant of DDT.

According to the EPA, DDT is a synthetic insecticide used in the 1940s to combat Malaria, Typhus and the other insect-borne human diseases.

In 1972, the EPA issued a discontinuation order for DDT because of potential human health risks. Actions were based on animal studies in which some animals developed liver tumors.

No other harmful organics were detected during the lab test.