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Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program Overview

Contaminants in Illinois sport fish are monitored by the Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program (FCMP), which is a cooperative effort between the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and the Departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources (IDNR), and Public Health (IDPH).

Fish samples are collected each year by IDNR from 40-50 streams, rivers, and inland lakes.  Lake Michigan open water stations are also sampled each year in four locations, and four Lake Michigan harbor stations are sampled every 3-4 years.  Approximately 250 samples are sent to the IEPA laboratory each year to be analyzed for 13 organochlorine pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and the heavy metal mercury.  The FCMP screens analytical results against federal Food and Drug Administration FDA action levels and adopts Health Protection Values.  Comparison of the sample results to these Health Protection Values determines the need for issuing, modifying, or rescinding a fish consumption advisory.  IDPH is responsible for issuing fish consumption advisories, which can be found on their fish advisory home page or by viewing an interactive fish advisory map.  The chemicals for which advisories have been issued include the pesticide chlordane, PCBs, and mercury.

2021 PFOS Sampling

In 2021, IEPA requested that IDNR conduct additional fish sampling at 17 locations where per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were previously found.  Earlier sampling conducted in 2011 detected perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and other PFAS within fish tissue across the state.  IEPA selected PFOS for analyses based on its ability to bioaccumulate more easily than other PFAS, and the availability of consumption advice for PFOS (outlined in the Great Lakes Consortium for fish Consumption Advisories’, Best Practice for Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Guidelines).  Of the 17 requested locations, IDNR obtained 29 fish samples from 10 locations.  The locations with adequate fish samples are:

  • Fox Lake – Lake County
  • Gages Lake – Lake County
  • Illinois River – La Salle and Peoria Counties
  • Lake Calumet – Cook County
  • Lake Decatur – Macon County
  • Lake Shelbyville – Shelby County
  • Mississippi River – Rock Island and Whiteside Counties
  • Powderhorn Lake – Cook County

As part of an ongoing collaborative effort, IEPA transferred the samples to University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign for PFOS analyses of the tissue.  Once the samples are analyzed for PFOS, the information will be used by the FCMP to determine if meal advice is warranted for the locations sampled.  Fish consumption advice will be evaluated as follows:

  • Fish containing less than 10 micrograms per kilogram (µg/kg) or parts per billion (ppb): Unrestricted.
  • Fish containing greater than 10 µg/kg or ppb and up to 20 µg/kg or ppb:  2 meals per week.
  • Fish containing greater than 20 µg/kg or ppb and up to 50 µg/kg or ppb:  1 meal per week.
  • Fish containing greater than 50 µg/kg or ppb and up to 200 µg/kg or ppb:  1 meal per month.
  • Fish containing greater than 200 µg/kg or ppb:  DO NOT EAT.

The values are derived from the 2019 Great Lakes Consortium for Fish Consumption Advisories’ “Best Practice for Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) Guidelines”.  Fish Consumption Advisories, if issued, will be posted on the IDPH fish advisory homepage. PFOS will be added to future routine monitoring in addition to the above-referenced organochlorine pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and mercury.

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Project

In 2021, the U.S. EPA GLRI awarded IEPA grant funding for the purchase of laboratory equipment capable of analyzing PFOS in fish tissue.  As part of the grant funding agreement, IDNR will collect fish samples from the Lake Michigan open waters and basin over the next two years (2022 – 2023) to determine levels of PFOS in sport fish taken from Lake Michigan.  These samples will be analyzed by the IEPA Division of Labs for PFOS concentrations in fish tissue. The results will be compared to the Great Lakes Consortium for Fish Consumption Advisories’ “Best Practice for Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) Guidelines.”  If meal advice is warranted, IDPH will post specific advisories on its Fish Consumption Advisory Map.