Sierra Club asks DNREC to reassess fish consumption advisory for Dragon Run Creek
The Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club requests that the State of Delaware reassess the fish consumption advisory for Dragon Run. According to the 2012 Delaware Fishing Guide, all waters not specifically listed in the Delaware Fish Consumption Advisories table on pages 38 and 39 have a recommended consumption level of 52 8-ounce servings per year. Dragon Run is not listed in this table, and therefore the default 52 8-ounce servings per year advisory applies to fish consumed from this water body.
However, the fish contamination samples reported in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Listing of Fish Advisories indicates a higher hazard advisory is warranted. The database reveals that fish samples were collected and tested for contaminants in Delaware waters between October 1982 and September 1998. Of the 1709 samples reported in this database, there are ten from Dragon Run, all which appear to have been collected from the same fish; a 20.36 inch long, 1800 gram carp harvested on September 5, 1996.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Guidance for Assessing Chemical Contaminant Data for Use in Fish Advisories, Volume 2 Risk Assessment and Fish Consumption Limits Third Edition (2002) provides risk-based consumption limits for many of these contaminants:
Dragon Run Sample Result
Risk Based Consumption Limit
Risk Based Consumption Limit
*meals are defined as an 8-ounce serving
ø threshold levels are not provided in this report
While the documentation provided by the EPA report assessing risk thresholds for contaminant data in fish advisories does not quantify all contaminants in the Dragon Run samples, it reveals that fish have levels of DDT, Dieldrin, DioxinFuranTEQ and PCBs to warrant a much more severe fish consumption advisory than the current 52 8-ounce portions per year. The most conservative recommendations suggested by this data would warrant the fish consumption advisory not to exceed consumption of one-half of an 8-ounce portion per month for fish from Dragon Run, with greater restrictions for children and women of childbearing age.
The July 25, 2010 article by Jeff Montgomery published in The News Journal entitled “At decades-old bait shop, fear erodes a livelihood” reports that “despite dangerous chemicals in the water, there is no posted warning against catching and eating fish from Dragon Run” and “the only people who aren’t afraid [to eat fish from Dragon Run] are temporary workers, immigrants.”
This same article reported that “In 2006, a federally mandated investigation of nearby Delaware City Refinery found benzene trickling into Dragon Run from its bottom, along with other gasoline additives. Levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, had reached 50 percent of the concentration in some samples…”
There is more than sufficient cause for the State of Delaware to reassess the current fish consumption advisory for Dragon Run:
- Dragon Run has documented levels of benzene pollution as well as other gasoline additives from the Delaware City Refinery. Benzene is known to bioaccumulate in fish and present a fish consumption hazard, yet benzene has not been tested for in the fish tissue samples reported in the EPA’s National Listing of Fish Advisories.
- Fish tissue samples reported in the National Listing of Fish Advisories database for Dragon Run exceed the current risk based consumption limit that has been assigned to this water body by the State of Delaware.
- Fish are being caught in Dragon Run and consumed by minority populations, presenting an environmental justice concern.
Delawareans are entitled to enjoy the recreational and subsistence benefits of our state’s natural resources. This heritage has been spoiled by environmental contamination, the extent to which has not been adequately investigated or reported on by state government.
All Delawareans, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, income, or location of residence, have a right to equal protection under the laws, policies, rules, regulations, and evaluation criteria for assessing environmental risk. Yet the State of Delaware’s fish consumption advisories have not been equally assessed or applied. Laws, policies, regulations, or criteria that result in disproportionate impact are discriminatory, whether or not such a result was intended, and should be corrected.
The State of Delaware and the Environmental Protection Agency have known since 1996 that samples collected from Dragon Run indicate that fish consumed from this water body present a serious threat to human health.
The State of Delaware has also known since at least 2006 that benzene levels in Dragon Run are at dangerous levels for the protection of health.
The Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club implores the State of Delaware to take the following immediate actions for the protection of public health:
- Utilize already assessed and reported data from the National Listing of Fish Advisories to increase the hazard warning for the fish consumption advisory in Dragon Run, and to post multi-lingual signs with this information in popular fishing areas along this water body.
- Design and implement a fish sampling study of Dragon Run to better assess the degree of environmental contamination and public health risk, to notify the public to the health hazard of fish consumed from this water body, and to further refine the fish consumption advisory for this water body utilizing scientific methods.