State officials say fish in Black Earth Creek are contaminated with toxic “forever chemicals.”
The Department of Natural Resources and Department of Health Services are advising anglers to limit consumption of brown trout from the popular Class 1 trout stream in western Dane County.
The agencies said fish collected in 2020 near Cross Plains had elevated levels of PFOS, one of many fluorinated compounds that can cause cancer and other ailments, and cautioned people not to eat the fish more than once per week.
The DNR did not immediately provide the test results or indicate a potential source of contamination, though some of the highest surface water concentrations reported are near the former Refuse Hideaway Landfill, a 23-acre Superfund site on Highway 14 in Middleton where industrial waste was dumped in the 1970s and 80s.
The advisory includes the entire length of the creek from Middleton to the confluence with Blue Mounds Creek near the Wisconsin River.
There was no discussion of new or modified limits for about two dozen other substances, including Trichloroethylene, a common dry cleaning chemical known as TCE, and chromium-6, a carcinogen made famous by Erin Brockovich.
Kyle Zempel, a fishing guide and owner of Black Earth Angling, said Black Earth Creek is one of the closest trout streams to Chicago and is easily accessible to Madison anglers.
“The resource itself is extremely important,” he said. “To have a trout stream within a short distance of a major city is really really special.”
Though most trout anglers return their catch, Zempel said the consumption advisory is “another knock” against the creek, which was once considered among the best trout fisheries in the nation but has been degraded by urban and agricultural pollution in recent decades.
“One thing after another keeps happening,” he said.
Thursday’s announcement is the state’s second PFAS-related consumption advisory issued this year. In January the agency said people should limit consumption of rock bass from Green Bay and its tributaries.
Advisories are in place for all but two of Madison’s lakes as well as Starkweather Creek.
The DNR has also issued PFAS consumption advisories for smelt from Lake Superior and trout from Silver Creek in the Fort McCoy Army base in Monroe County. PFAS advisories were previously in place for fish caught in three pools of the Mississippi River.
The DNR publishes advisories for specific species from around the state in an annual guidebook available on the agency website.
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