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Walleyed mercury

It’s probably best to avoid eating fish out of Lake Glenville. At least the walleye.

“I’d like to tell you I know what a walleye is,” said Paula Carden, health director for Jackson County Department of Public Health. “I think it’s a bass.”

“It’s delicious,” laughed Jackson County Commissioner Doug Cody. 

Delicious, maybe. But in Lake Glenville, the walleye are apparently also high in mercury. 

Carden recently informed county officials about the mercury-laden walleye. And about the coming health advisory from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. 

“I had a phone call from the state toxicologist this morning,” Carden wrote County Manager Chuck Wooten on Nov. 7, alerting him to the issue. “An advisory about the human consumption of the fish (walleye) from the Glenville reservoir will be coming out to us in the next few weeks.”

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She explained that the state would send a draft of the advisory for the county to review in early December. And that Dr. Kenneth Rudo, the state toxicologist with DENR, was requesting a public meeting in mid-December so that he and his staff could field questions about the health warning. 

“Many times the public is not overly concerned about the advisories now as in the past, but it would be good for them to hear the facts I think,” Carden wrote Wooten. 

The health director explained that the advisory, due out by Dec. 3, would advise pregnant women and children under the age of 15 to avoid eating walleye from Glenville, and that everyone else limit their consumption to one meal per week. 

“He didn’t say what the levels are but that they are ‘pretty high,’” Carden wrote. 

Calls to the state toxicologist were not returned by press time.

Wooten said that he has tentatively slated a meeting for the week of Dec. 15, most likely at the Cashiers library. The county health department will begin publicizing both the meeting and the health advisory soon. 

Carden said that the health department is also considering placing signage at Lake Glenville to warn people of the mercury levels.

Mercury is dangerous for children and pregnant women because it can impact brain development. The contamination is most likely due to pollution settling into the lake. 

“It usually comes from pollution over time and settles into the water over time. It’s very heavy, it stays there, it doesn’t go away naturally,” Carden said. “It makes sense that the walleye would have the highest level since they eat the other fish.”

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