Paper mills and other industry along the river near the villages of Carthage and West Carthage, left it heavily polluted. The area was declared an EPA Superfund site last year. But it's still heavily used for fishing, rafting and kayaking, and there are several homes along the polluted stretch.
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The state DEC has just recently begun its work on the Black River pollution…and it sent out a letter to village residents last week, telling them dioxins and PCBs have been found in concentrations of up to 610 parts per million.
That’s a high concentration—but DEC spokesman Stephen Litwhiler says it’s not as bad as it might sound. That’s because the contamination is too far down in the sediment to make much contact with people using the river:
We’re dealing with some deep PCB contaminations, it’s deep in the sediment, and it’s probably been there a long time, in excess of 20 years or more.
PCBs are considered probable human carcinogens—and they’re linked to low birth weight; thyroid disease; and learning, memory and immune system disorders.
But Litwhiler says until there’s word to the contrary, people should continue using the river as they always have:
We don’t see how there’s really currently a mechanism for people to be exposed, there’s no specific consumption advisory for eating fish from the river, if we find there are levels in the fish we’ll put out specific advisories.
Litwhiler says the advisory on eating fish from any New York source—no more than one meal per week—still stands here.