Aleutian fish still contaminated by old military sites

Aleutian fish still contaminated by old military sites

Published: March 22nd, 2010 12:31 PM

Fish caught in waters near old military sites in the western Aleutian Islands have more chemical contaminants than do fish caught farther away, according to a study reported by KUCB in Unalaska.

Biologist Keith Miles of the U.S. Geological Survey was part of a team that tested fish for organochlorines — including PCBs used in electrical lubricants and pesticides — in the livers of halibut, cod and greenling caught near decommissioned military bases established during World War II and the Cold War. In many cases the chemicals stored at the sites were dumped or left behind.

“There wasn’t a lot of public understanding of just how toxic these compounds are,” Miles said. ” … It’s a lot cheaper to dump this stuff than it is to haul it back for disposal.”

All fish tested had some contaminants transmitted by atmosphere from elsewhere in the world, but fish caught near the old bases had higher levels of heavy chemicals, indicating local contamination. The chemicals didn’t appear to have spread up the food chain to bald eagles, Miles said.

He said attempts to clean up the military sites can cause worse contamination for years as chemicals in the environment are stirred up and preserved in the cold northern waters. Tumors in fish increased for years after a Superfund cleanup off Adak Island.

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