Master's Project Shows PCB Contamination

Anthony Edwards Ever since he saw how runoff from a neighboring poultry operation turned the Illinois River near his childhood Oklahoma home green, Anthony Edwards has been interested in water issues.

This interest is what brought him to the University of New Mexico, where he earned a master's degree in Water Resources last December, during his first year of law school. Now he is pursuing a Natural Resources and Environmental Law Certificate, certain that water is in his future, along with law.

Securing his commitment to this path was his master's project, in which he examined data of PCB contamination along the Rio Grande from its headwaters to Cochiti Dam for the New Mexico Environment Department.

The data that Edwards examined had been gathered using more sensitive testing methods than for previous data, which had not shown substantial PCB contamination in the river. He soon discovered that PCBs were indeed prevalent in sediment and a variety of fish, sometimes at alarming levels.

"I found higher levels of PCB contamination in fish below Los Alamos National Laboratory, along with a different composition of PCBs," he says. "I made a recommendation to the department for what fish advisories should be issued for the consumption of carp, bass, catfish, walleye, small-mouth bass and rainbow trout."

The recommendations varied, depending on location. For example, a 154-pound adult should eat no more than three trout a month caught in Abiquiu Reservoir, and no more than one eight-ounce catfish caught at Cochiti..

Now that he knows how much more complex water issues are than he had imagined, Edwards looks forward to learning as much as he can in law school, with a goal to continue being an environmental advocate.

This summer, Edwards is working with the Utton Transboundary Resources Center's ombudsman program, assisting pro se claimants on water adjudications. And he plans to advocate for his fish-consumption recommendations to be widely distributed for greater public awareness.

"The more aware the public is of these issues, the more attention will be paid to them," he says .