Scientists tackle mercury woes in river on Idaho-Oregon line

AP News
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Posted: Aug 14, 2016 1:42 PM

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A multiyear study of mercury contamination is underway in a three-dam hydroelectric project on the Idaho-Oregon border that's part of a power company's effort to renew its license with the federal government.

Idaho Power says the five- to eight-year study now in its second year is needed to better understand the high mercury levels in fish in the Hells Canyon Complex on the Snake River.

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey running the study say initial findings indicate nutrients from upstream agricultural areas appear to be contributing to a process resulting in low oxygen levels and bacteria producing a form of mercury that works its way up the food chain.

Scientists say 96 percent of smallmouth bass in the system contain so much mercury they're unsafe to eat under Oregon standards.