Eating fish is an important part of a healthy diet, providing a low calorie source of healthful proteins and fats. Most fish are safe to eat, but some can accumulate contaminants that can pose health risks if eaten too much. Thus, fish are a key indicator for determining water quality. In Illinois, contaminant levels in sport fish are monitored through a cooperative effort between the Departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Public Health, and the Illinois Emergency Management and Environmental Protection Agencies, called the Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program (FCMP).
Fish samples are collected from 40-50 stream, river, and inland lake and 4 Lake Michigan open water stations each year, plus 4 Lake Michigan harbor stations are collected every 3-4 years. The FCMP’s target from these collections is to provide around 400 samples to the Illinois EPA laboratory for analysis of 13 banned pesticides, the industrial chemical polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and the heavy metal mercury. The analytical results are then reviewed by the FCMP to determine the need for issuing, modifying, or cancelling a consumption advisory or for following up on sample results. The chemicals for which advisories have been issued include the pesticide chlordane, PCBs, and mercury.
Advisory information for specific water bodies is available from the Department of Public Health web site.