Fish from parts of Peconic Lake and the Peconic River are “at risk” of being contaminated and are potentially hazardous if eaten, state health officials said Monday.
The Department of Health said testing found the level of so-called PFAS — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — high enough that anglers should not eat yellow perch caught in the lake and river, while all other fish caught in those waters should be limited to just four meals per month. The area affected by the advisory covers the lake and river between Edwards Avenue Dam and the Peconic Lake Dam, the DOH said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PFAS are “man-made chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products worldwide since the 1940s.” They have been used to make nonstick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain-resistant fabrics, and other products and are known as “forever chemicals” that don’t break down easily.
The CDC said studies have found that ingestion of contaminated fish can lead to a variety of health problems, including cancer. The DOH and Department of Environmental Conservation said other potential side effects include learning and developmental delays in children, as well as other long-term health risks. Children are at greater risk than adults, the DOH said.
Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said in a statement that the health department works with federal and state agencies “to monitor potentially harmful chemicals in fish and to provide advice so that anglers can make healthy choices regarding the fish they eat.”
The Peconic River and Peconic Lake have been the subject of numerous health advisories in recent years that have cautioned against fishing and swimming in certain parts at different times. Newsday reported in 2020 that groundwater contamination spreading from 6,000 acres in Calverton where Grumman once fueled and tested U.S. Navy jets was threatening the Peconic River as well as private drinking wells.
In New York State, fish advisories are based on information the state DEC gathers on contaminant levels from different bodies of water, checking on those “susceptible to mercury contamination, popular fishing waters, and waters where trends in fish contamination are being monitored,” according to the state health department, which determines if an advisory should be issued or revised.