Many of the brown bullhead catfish swimming in Erie's Presque Isle Bay still get cancerous tumors and blood-red lesions, but the state Department of Environmental Protection wants to remove the bay from an international listing of places impaired by pollution.
The DEP on Wednesday asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to remove the bay from a list of Great Lakes Areas of Concern because of water quality improvements, even though two decades of study hasn't determined why the bottom-feeding fish are getting the cancerous skin growths. No other bottom-feeding organisms are similarly affected.
If the EPA approves the removal, which is opposed by some scientists, academics, health officials and fishermen who have studied the problem -- Presque Isle Bay would become the second American area of concern removed from the listing under the U.S.-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The first was the Oswego River and harbor area on Lake Ontario in New York in 2006.
Anglers first reported growths on the bullhead catfish in 1984. In 1991, the bay became the 43rd area of concern based on dredging of its contaminated sediment and the fish tumors. The designation based on dredging was removed in 2007.