Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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LDEQ advisory map tells you were not to fish or swim

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BATON ROUGE - There's a new way to tell if an area is safe to swim in or eat fish out of. The interactive map posted lets people know if a Louisiana waterway is polluted in some way and an advisory is posted.

The map allows visitors to click on icons to reveal information including advisory type, meal recommendations, and advisory issue date for that area.

The multi-agency initiative was agreed upon in 2012. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality with the Louisiana Department of Health issues fish consumption and swimming advisories to help people enjoy Louisiana's water resources. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry are also consulted during the advisory process.

LDEQ Environmental Scientist Senior Al Hindrichs says the map was created about a month ago and people are already paying attention. 

"I've gotten some calls," he said. "People say, 'I've seen Ouachita River is on there can I eat my catfish?' I've had a lady call from Blind River asking, 'do I need to get tested?'"

That answer is typically no, but Hindrichs says people should follow the advisories moving forward.

"If it says don't fish, don't fish, but if you just go out there and grab a fish and eat it tonight it's not going to kill you or make you sick," he said. "We just don't want people doing that over and over."

Most of the advisories in the state are for mercury. Other advisories are for Polychlorinated Biphenyls, or PCB's, which are manmade chemicals no longer produced but have had a lasting effect on the environment and can cause health effects on humans and animals.

LDEQ's role is to sample fish from all over the state. The Mercury Initiative Team uses an electrofishing boat to send a shock wave into the water temporarily stunning the fish which brings them to the surface. The fish are scooped up in nets and sent off to a lab where data is collected and turned over LDH to determine if an advisory is necessary. The team samples about 100 locations a year.

The advisories at Capitol Lake in Baton Rouge date back to 1983. LDEQ says it's because of a number of sources that produced products with PCB's which made their way into the lake's sediment. As there are in other advisory areas, a sign is posted at Capitol Lake cautioning people who choose to fish there.

LDEQ says its hope is to continue to get funding so the state can revisit water bodies and explore new ones to update the map as often as possible.


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