Wilmington-area gators, fish show high levels of contaminants

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Alligator at Greenfield Lake in Wilmington (Photo: StarNews)

RALEIGH, NC (StarNews) — Alligators and striped bass in the Wilmington area have levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) many times higher than their counterparts elsewhere in the state, a finding that surprised the N.C. State University team conducting the research.

“The data right now, with the levels as high as they are, are causing me to start to really believe that the PFAS are likely harming fish and wildlife around these polluted areas,” said Scott Belcher, a N.C. State toxicologist, on Tuesday.

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Belcher’s team compared alligators from Lake Waccamaw in Columbus County and Greenfield Lake in Wilmington with the latter showing levels of total PFAS more than 10 times higher. They also compared striped bass from the Pamlico Aquaculture Field Laboratory and Lock and Dam No. 1 on the Cape Fear River, with the latter showing levels more than 33 times higher.

Researchers are now, Belcher said, looking at whether the PFAS are affecting the immune systems or liver functions of the animals sampled — endpoints that have also been identified in humans. Partners in the team’s research include Cape Fear River Watch, N.C. Sea Grant and the N.C. PFAST Network.

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