Angoon officials worry about mercury in subsistence foods

JUNEAU — The city and tribal government of Angoon want state health officials to look into mercury levels in seals and other subsistence foods near Hawk Inlet.

Angoon officials warned residents not to gather traditional food from west Admiralty Island, KTOO-FM reported.

The state and U.S. Forest Service have determinations Hawk Inlet is healthy.

Researchers have spotted high mercury levels in a seal that was shared in the village, as well as toxic metals in seaweed, clams, mussels, shrimp, cockles and crab.

Angoon officials worry the mercury is tied to Hecla’s Greens Creek Mine.

“I understand that the mine is important to a lot of people for jobs and revenue into the City and Borough of Juneau, but there’s also a responsibility to the community health,” city mayor and tribal president Albert Howard said. “And what I meant by that is the city council and the tribal council understand the importance of the community’s health and our children.”

Greens Creek spokesman Mike Satre says the mine monitors discharge year-round and issues an annual report, among other efforts.

“We meet all the permitted conditions that are put on us by the state for the discharge of our water into Hawk Inlet,” Satre said.

Angoon officials have asked that the state determine the impact of any elevated metals in Hawk Inlet on the ecosystem, determine if food sources are safe to eat, and find the source of elevated metals in subsistence foods.

They also want steps taken to protect consumers, mitigate hazards, and conduct a study on the mine’s impact on the ecosystem.

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