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PFAS Sampling in the Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program

Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program Overview

Contaminants in Illinois sport fish are monitored by the Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program (FCMP), which is a cooperative effort between the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and the Departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources (IDNR), and Public Health (IDPH).

Fish samples are collected each year by IDNR from 40-50 streams, rivers, and inland lakes. Lake Michigan open water stations are also sampled each year in four locations, and four Lake Michigan harbor stations are sampled every 3-4 years. Approximately 250 samples are sent to the IEPA laboratory each year to be analyzed for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and methylmercury. The FCMP screens analytical results against federal Food and Drug Administration FDA action levels and adopts Health Protection Values. Comparison of the sample results to these Health Protection Values determines the need for issuing, modifying, or rescinding a fish consumption advisory. IDPH is responsible for issuing fish consumption advisories, which can be found on their fish advisory home page or by viewing an interactive fish advisory map.  

2021 PFOS Sampling

In 2021, IEPA requested that IDNR conduct additional fish sampling at 17 locations where per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were previously found. Earlier sampling conducted in 2011 detected perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and other PFAS within fish tissue across the state. IEPA selected PFOS for analyses based on its ability to bioaccumulate more easily than other PFAS, and the availability of consumption advice for PFOS (outlined in the Great Lakes Consortium for Fish Consumption Advisories’ "Best Practice for Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Guidelines"). Of the 17 requested locations, IDNR obtained 29 fish samples from 10 locations. The locations with adequate fish samples are:

  • Fox Lake – Lake County
  • Gages Lake – Lake County
  • Illinois River – La Salle and Peoria Counties
  • Lake Calumet – Cook County
  • Lake Decatur – Macon County
  • Lake Shelbyville – Shelby County
  • Mississippi River – Rock Island and Whiteside Counties
  • Powderhorn Lake – Cook County

As part of an ongoing collaborative effort, IEPA transferred the samples to University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign for PFOS analyses of the tissue. Fish consumption advice was evaluated as follows:

  • Fish containing less than 10 micrograms per kilogram (µg/kg) or parts per billion (ppb): Unrestricted.
  • Fish containing 11 µg/kg or ppb and up to 50 µg/kg or ppb:  1 meal per week.
  • Fish containing 51 µg/kg or ppb and up to 200 µg/kg or ppb:  1 meal per month.
  • Fish containing greater than 200 µg/kg or ppb:  DO NOT EAT.

The values are derived from the 2019 Great Lakes Consortium for Fish Consumption Advisories’ “Best Practice for Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) Guidelines.” Based on the analytical results, the FCMP determined that no PFOS advisories were warranted. If future sampling indicates a need for PFOS advisories, they will be posted on the IDPH fish advisory webpage.

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Project

In 2021, the U.S. EPA GLRI awarded IEPA grant funding for the purchase of laboratory equipment capable of analyzing PFAS in fish tissue. As part of the grant funding agreement, IDNR is collecting fish samples from the Lake Michigan open waters and basin during the 2022 and 2023 sampling seasons. These samples are being analyzed for PFAS by IEPA's Division of Labs. The results will be compared to the Great Lakes Consortium for Fish Consumption Advisories’ “Best Practice for Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) Guidelines.” If meal advice is warranted, IDPH will post specific advisories on its Fish Consumption Advisory Map.