The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) issued fish consumption advisories for five ponds on Cape Cod earlier this month. DPH conducted tests at 16 lakes and ponds around Cape Cod earlier this year and found the need to issue five new advisories. These warnings only apply to anglers who intend to consume the fish they catch from these waterbodies. The warnings all pertain to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are harmful to humans in concentrations higher than DPH standards.
Of the 16 lakes and ponds, elevated levels of PFAS were found in fish sampled from John’s Pond in Mashpee, Flax Pond in Bourne, Grews Pond and Jenkins Pond in Falmouth and Mashpee-Wakeby Poind in Mashpee/Sandwich. The advisory specified that the levels found in surface water were not elevated to the level that it would be unsafe for swimming. The ponds tested and deemed safe were; Peter’s, Snake and Triangle Ponds in Sandwich, Crooked, Mares, Flax and Round ponds in Falmouth, Shubael Pond in Barnstable as well as Hen Cove and Squeteague Harbor in Bourne.
PFAS’s are defined as fluorinated substances that contain at least one fully-fluorinated methyl or methylene carbon atom. In laymen’s terms, they are a group of manmade chemicals used in a variety of consumer products around the world. Exposure to unsafe levels of these chemicals has been shown in laboratory animals and humans to cause changes in liver and kidney function, changes in thyroid hormone and cholesterol levels and they may also effect the immune system. Other studies point to an increased risk of cancer.
One item of note is that these advisories apply to all native gamefish, but not to stocked trout which will not have been exposed to the water long enough to move the needle for PFAS detection. Massachusetts continues to conduct PFAS around the state in ponds, lakes and rivers, as well as groundwater and drinking water. MassDEP requires the frequent testing of public drinking water for PFAS and many other contaminants.
The severity of the contamination varies from pond to pond, where some might only suggest sensitive populations should avoid eating the fish (children, elderly and nursing mothers) others suggest no more than one meal per week while some warn that no fish should be consumed at all. For details on these and other contaminated waterbodies around the Commonwealth, please visit: www.mass.gov/lists/fish-consumption-advisories