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Mercury levels may be higher than normal

MISHAWAKA, Ind. -- Mercury in general is not safe, but it is out there, and Mishawka Waste Water Management is working to educate the community to help make sure the wastewater they put into the St. Joseph River is safe for you and your family.

"I don't know how to explain it, I am a fisherman," says Tim Zerbel, a Mishawaka resident, as he enjoys the beauty of the water and waiting for a good catch.

Zerbel says, "When the fish are here, I am here everyday."

What's also here that Zerbel and others can't see, is Mercury. It's coming from the waste water treatment plant that dumps into the St. Joe River.

But ultimately it's coming from residents and business owners in Mishawaka.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that everyday household items like batteries and flashlights, if not thrown away properly, can end up in our water, right in the St. Joe River.

Now waste water management is asking for the community's help.

“We have come up with a mercury minimization plan which seeks to sop mercury at the source," says Karl Kopec, Waste Water Division Manager.

They need a plan because right now the waste water doesn't always meet those strict new EPA standards.

The Indiana limit for mercury is 1.3 parts per trillion.

Tim Brill, Waste Management Assistant Manager, says it's hard to stay below that new stringent number- so they are asking the state to allow higher mercury limits in Mishawaka.

“Because we can’t consistently meet the limit, and the EPA and the I-Demo are aware of that," says Brill. "That’s why they have developed the streamline variance program.”

But for the fishermen, who rely on this water to be clean, it is hard to know the fish they reel in live in water that would not be safe to the EPA's standards.

“At least make it better with the sewage and the water cleanliness, so to hear somebody is kind of going backwards on that is somewhat disheartening to me," explains Zerbel.

The first step in the plan is that Waste Water Management must educate the people in the community about how to be more responsible with the mercury in homes and businesses.

They have already started by stating their plain in the Mishawaka Communicator.

You can watch what you throw down your drains by checking out the EPA's website for a list of household products that contain levels of Mercury.

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