Mercury mystery – Contamination of Bear River is topic of meeting |

Mercury mystery – Contamination of Bear River is topic of meeting

According to a federal scientist who has been studying the Bear River since 1999, the stream that divides Nevada and Placer counties is loaded with mercury at certain points.

The mercury – from the bygone days of gold mining – will be the subject of a meeting next Tuesday night at the Higgins Community Center. The meeting is being put on by Bear River Watershed Coordinator Lisa Osterholm and the Nevada County Resource Conservation District.

Charlie Alpers, a research chemist with the U.S. Geological Survey, will speak about health surveys of the river he has been involved with since 1998. There will also be discussion about current watershed projects and enhancements.

An initial study Alpers was involved with led to a 2000 report warning residents about consuming large amounts of fish out of the Yuba and Bear rivers for fear of toxic mercury and methylmercury levels. The results of that report were echoed in 2003 by the state, which issued an official warning for consumers to not eat more than four meals of fish per month from mining areas in the Yuba and Bear watersheds.

“Since then we’ve done a detailed food web study,” along the Bear River, Alpers said. The study looked at mercury at seven different levels along the food chain including plankton, invertebrates and fish. That information will be shared at the meeting.

According to conservation district employee Brittney Keema, there will also be discussion of a proposed program to put warning markers next to storm drains in Nevada City. The markers, like those found at the county government Rood Center, will warn people that anything they spill into the drain will go into Wolf Creek and eventually, the Bear River.

Also on tap will be a report about the water quality test findings being done along the river by students from Sierra Foothill High School and the Grass Valley Charter School. All are welcome and refreshments will be served.

The conservation district was established in 1943 to restore and conserve the county’s resources through programs with farmers, government agencies and organizations. For more information, call the district office at 272-3417.


WHAT: Bear River Watershed Group meeting on mercury contamination.

WHEN: 6 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Higgins Community Center, E. Hacienda Drive near Lake of the Pines.

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