JACKSONVILLE, Ark. — The fish in a popular Jacksonville parks pond are more than a little fishy, they’re unsafe to eat according to the Arkansas Department of Health.
It hasn’t been restocked in about four years because of toxic levels of dioxin, but some people out on the water have no idea.
A few days a week you’ll find Christopher Price chasing after his four-year-old son at Dupree Park in Jacksonville.
“There’s a lot to do, you can walk around the pond, you can play in the fields and come out here and there’s usually lots of kids,” Price said.
Another popular activity is fishing in the pond.
“It was relaxing but I didn’t catch anything,” he said.
Which could be viewed as a good thing, because according to the Arkansas Department of Health, the pond is contaminated with dioxin — a highly toxic chemical that can impact reproduction and even lead to cancer according to the World Health Organization.
“Any amount is unsafe,” Debra Fulton, a Jacksonville community advocate who also ran for mayor said.
She’s brought up her concerns to the city council since she tried to get the pond stocked for a fundraiser two years ago.
“They said they couldn’t stock it because the fish would be contaminated and unsafe for consumption,” Fulton said.
According to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, it hasn’t been stocked for at least 4 years due to the toxic chemical and the pond’s tendency to flood.
But it’s still bringing in fisherman.
“They should have had signs out here four years ago. That’s four years of people eating the fish out of here, that’s four years of being exposed to the dioxin,” Fulton said.
Instead the posted signs give no warning that what you’re catching is likely more than what you’re reeling in.
We reached out to the Jacksonville Mayor’s Office but have not heard back.
The dioxin levels of the pond have not changed in recent years, but the EPA changed the levels considered safe.
The last water test was performed in August of 2017. Another test is expected this year.
Three other lakes have similar fishing warnings including:
-Lake Saracen (Jefferson County)
-Bayou Meto, upstream from Hwy. 13 (Pulaski & Lonoke Counties)
-Big Creek Tributary, from Magnolia to Big Creek (Columbia County)