State fish and wildlife officials today established a catch-and-release only regulation on about the first ten miles of Big Spring Creek near Lewistown after learning that elevated levels of PCBs are in the stream's wild trout.
“We are all concerned," said John Brenden, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks commissioner from Saco. "This is a good first step."
Earlier this month the FWP Commission considered a the catch-and-release only rule for Big Springs Creek upstream of Lewistown from the Ash Street Bridge to the Big Springs Trout Hatchery, including the East Fork of Big Spring Creek to the East Fork Reservoir. In a conference call today, the commission decided to extend the area and include an additional 2.5 miles, to the U.S. Highway 191 Bridge adjacent to the Lazy KB Fishing Access Site.
PCB amounts detected in the stream's wild trout in the first 7 1/2 miles exceed the recommended level for human consumption. The extension to 10 miles was established as an additional safeguard in the interest of public health.
FWP initially sought the catch-and-release regulation after conferring with Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services officials.
Last summer, the state Department of Environmental Quality discovered high levels of PCBs in sediments immediately downstream of FWP's Big Springs Trout Hatchery. Subsequent investigations suggest that paint used decades ago on hatchery raceways is a major source of polychlorinated biphenyls in the stream’s wild fish.
PCBs were widely used in the 1970s as plasticizers in paints. PCBs were banned in the early 1980s and have not been used since in the hatchery for about 20 years. Hatchery fish have tested negative for PCBs, however the chemical has settled into Big Spring Creek’s sediment and worked its way up the food chain.FWP hired a private consulting firm to determine where PCB-contaminated paints remain in the Big Springs hatchery and to develop a plan for their removal.