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The toxic mercury menace in San Francisco Bay

(From sfgate.com)- It”s been long known that mercury from old mines leaks into the San Francisco Bay from the hills above San Jose where the New Almaden Quicksilver Mine operated for more than 120 years before it was shut down in the 1970s. Mercury, a potent neurotoxin, also was freely washed into tributaries to the bay as part of the famous gold mining, ultimately contaminating almost all of the bay fish.

Previous studies by U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the southern reaches of the bay have shown methylmercury contaminates Forster’s terns, black crowned night herons, stilts and even the California clapper rail. In some birds, the mercury levels are so high that the hatch fails.
The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board has set limits on mercury discharges to the bay, and is working with cities and counties to slow the flow.
Richard Looker, an engineer at the regional board, said in a statement that accompanied the release of the new findings that the new research could be used to guide control of mercury contamination in the bay.


(By Jane Kay)

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