MIAMI A study involving mercury levels in fish in Grand Lake was outlined this week at the 11th annual Tar Creek Conference, sponsored by Local Environmental Action Demanded.

Dr. Jim Shine, of the Harvard School of Public Health, said levels of mercury in Grand Lake fish have never before been studied, and several power plants, which are sources of mercury, are downwind from the lake.

The four-year study will begin when funding becomes available, said Earl Hatley, LEAD Grand Riverkeeper.

Shine said fish are an important link to the discovery of mercury exposure, which can be harmful to fetuses and has been linked to health effects in adults.

This is significant as some people, especially recreational fishermen, eat lots of fish from Grand Lake, Shine said.

The study will select fish species most commonly caught from Grand Lake and the Neosho and Spring rivers. Researchers will study different concentrations of mercury among the species and whether the levels are different among the bodies of water.

Some of the species studied will include paddlefish or spoonbill, carp, crappie, channel catfish, striped bass, white bass and smallmouth and largemouth bass.

Participants will provide hair samples four times during a year, once per season, because mercury concentration in hair is related to diet. Questionnaires will also be filled out about diet and types of fish eaten.

Shine said septic tanks and poultry litter are more of a problem for Grand Lake than metals associated with Tar Creek.

"Septic tanks and poultry (litter) are far more a direct insult to Grand Lake," Shine said.