KDHE: Fish in popular Liberal lake not safe to eat


LIBERAL, Kan. (KSNW) – Some residents in Liberal are learning they no longer should eat fish caught in a popular fishing spot. That word is coming down from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

A few weeks ago, KDHE emailed city officials saying fish in the Arkalon Park lake aren’t safe to be eaten and need to be released once caught.

“Well, if they catch any fish, they have to throw them back, because it’s wastewater,” said Jody Thompson with Arkalon Park maintenance department. “They don’t think they get all the contaminants out.”

Thompson says warning signs are up to make area residents aware of the problem.

“We have to put signs up to let everyone know it’s catch and release only, try to enforce it. It’s going to be tough, but that’s all I can do,” Thompson said.

The lake has been fed with treated wastewater for decades. KDHE says the lake has always been designated as a no-swimming lake. But, this year, they realized the fishing component had not been addressed.

“The permiters, when they were renewing the permit this year, noticed that people were fishing out of it and realized that they needed to mark that it’s also catch and release,” said KDHE spokesperson Kara Titus.

She says it’s a precaution more than anything else because things like the presence of hormones in wastewater don’t always get tested.

“We don’t have proof that the water is dangerous,” Titus said. “However, due to the fact that it is treated wastewater, we advise people that they should not consume the fish.”

Thompson said the lake is a popular picnicking spot.

“Well a lot of them come down here to picnic, then go fishing, or go fishing and then come down and picnic, and it’s been kind of slow,” Thompson said.

Liberal resident Judy Yates has been fishing in the lake for three years, but says she plans to follow the new warning.

“I think like myself, you know, you kind of take heed to that and say maybe that’s not a good idea,” Yates said. “That’s a nice fish, I might take a picture of it but let it go.”

Starting Wednesday, park visitors will start seeing signs warning them to throw back any fish caught in the lake.

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