Heavy Metals

What are heavy metals?

  • Are heavy, dense, metallic elements (e.g. arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, and mercury)

  • Are naturally occurring in freshwater systems at low concentrations

  • Can be found at varying concentrations in the water depending on the soil characteristics, water properties, and amount of organic matter present

Why should I care?

High concentrations of heavy metals can kill fish and aquatic plant life and create human health concerns. In Lake Whatcom, there is a fish advisory for smallmouth bass and yellow perch due to high mercury concentrations found in fish tissue.

Although there have been concerns about concentrations of heavy metals in Lake Whatcom, water supplied by the City of Bellingham and the Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District meets all water quality standards for heavy metals (See Water Quality).

How do heavy metals enter our lakes and streams?

  • They can enter water through weathering of soils and rocks, volcanic eruptions, or other naturally occurring events

  • They can enter water from landfills, dump sites and mining operations

  • They can accumulate on roadways and later be carried into lakes and streams by stormwater runoff

What can I do to help?

  • Maintain your automobile on a regular basis. If you find a leak, have it repaired.

  • Properly dispose of toxic household items to prevent metals from leaching into groundwater and surface waters