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Official: Longtime fish consumption advisory lifted on Arizona river

View of the Gila River, where a fish consumption advisory was recently lifted after 24 years. (Facebook/Gila River Indian Community)

PHOENIX — After 24 years of restricting the consumption of fish from the Gila River, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality lifted a fish consumption advisory Wednesday, a move that demonstrates the end of a dangerous pesticide presence in the water.

The advisory, which covered the lower Gila River and several streams leading into it, had been placed on 100 miles of streams and 286 acres of lakes.

It was placed in effect in 1991 after several pesticides used in agriculture and crop irrigation in the 1940s — DDT, toxaphene and chlordane — were found to be toxic after contaminating several crops.

ADEQ Water Quality Division Director Trevor Baggiore said the pesticides tested in low amounts in fish tissue samples for the first time since the 1970s.

“This is the first time ADEQ has lifted a fish consumption advisory,” he said in a recent press release. “Fish tested by ADEQ and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service show that banned pesticides no longer pose a health risk in the Gila River and its tributaries.”

ADEQ and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tested 67 fish tissue samples from eight species of fish between 2011 and 2012, which tested 16 times lower than pesticide threshold levels designed to protect human health than in the 1990s.

In March, ADEQ requested that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency remove the river from the Arizona Impaired Waters List.

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