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Tuesday, May 4, 2010 - 11:04am

Mercury High in South Georgia Fish

Dianna Wedincamp of Swainboro likes her weekly fish fry.

But not after getting tests done for mercury levels in her body.

"They came back over 200% over what they should over the safe limit," Wedincamp says.

Wedincamp's husband fishes on the Ogeechee and Canoochee Rivers.

That's where volunteers collected more than 60 fish last year.

The University of Georgia studied the fish for mercury.

The tests on those fish show that people are getting more mercury than recommended if they eat the fish more than once a week in some cases, more than once a month in others.

"We have the constitutional right to fish in Georgia, but the state's not protecting its citizens from mercury in the fish," says Chandra Brown, the Ogeechee-Canoochee Riverkeeper, which undertook the study.

In the study, bass fared worse than sunfish.

Inland waters fared worse than coastal waters.

Brown decried coal-fired power plants, a major source of mercury pollution, which is linked to birth defects.

"The science shows that these blackwater river systems, these South Georgia streams, are the most vulnerable streams," Brown says. "And yet the state keeps issuing permits for more coal-fired power plants."

The study suggests limiting consumption of locally caught fish, especially of larger species of fish, and especially for women who are pregnant or might become pregnant.

Mercury pollution has been linked to birth defects in children.