The Washington Times - November 26, 2009, 07:44AM

Throughout the country, Virginia is known as a first-rate sport fishing state. Whether it’s freshwater trout stocked in its streams, crappies and sunfish from lakes and ponds, or bass and giant catfish from any number of its rivers — not to mention top-flight saltwater fishing — the Old Dominion has it all.

However, are you aware that some of its waters contain chemicals that the Virginia Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Quality say perhaps might pose a problem?

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Read that to mean that there’s a chance of things not being good in certain bodies of water. This doesn’t come as shocking news to residents of other states. Virginia’s neighbors, Maryland and North Carolina, are experiencing similar difficulties with chemicals being found in rivers and lakes, but it’s Virginia we’re currently concerned with.

The state has sent out fish consumption advisories, asking that pregnant women or children do not consume certain freshwater fish. Yet no one said anything about what is being done to clean up the potential dangers found in the water.

The environmental quality people say they routinely monitor fish in Virginia waters, looking for contaminants and providing fish tissue sample results to the state’s health department. Both agencies are careful to say that most state waters do not have dangerous levels of contaminants, “[but] sometimes the fish in certain waters are found to contain chemicals at levels of concern.”

Well, if the politicians aren’t, at least the scientists are concerned.

There’s a reason why they’re checking the waters of the lower Chesapeake Bay, including the Great Wicomico, Piankatank, Poquoson, Lynnhaven and Pocomoke Rivers; Dragon Run Swamp; and Mobjack Bay. Add also the Chowan and Dismal Swamp rivers basin that include the Nottoway, Meherrin, and Blackwater rivers, as well as Lake Drummond.

In the James River Basin, the Maury, Jackson, Slate, Rivanna, Tye, Rockfish, Willis, Appomattox, Chickahominy, Pagan, Nansemond, and Elizabeth rivers are being monitored. The Potomac River is also on the list, including the Occoquan River; so is the Rappahannock River Basin and its feeders, such as the Rapidan, Robinson and Corrotoman rivers and Mountain Run.

Needless to say the Shenandoah River Basin is being monitored. The Shenandoah has seen its share of pollution and fish kill problems over the years. I would not eat fish coming from its waters.

If you want to check the data from fish tissue analysis on samples taken from the waters mentioned above, as well as others, you can contact the Department of Environmental Quality at 804/698-4113 or check their web site by going to http://www.deq.virginia.gov/fishtissue.html. And information about mercury and fish consumption provided by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration can be found by clicking on http://www.epa.gov/ost/fishadvice/factsheet.html.