A car sits in cracked earth of what was the bottom of the Almaden Reservoir. San Jose, California. Photograph by Justin Sullivan

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Yes, actually! The concentration of mercury in the water is at safe concentrations for drinking and other uses.

The fish become toxic because they live *in* the water. Also, the fish we catch are generally pretty high up on the food chain — they have to eat a lot of smaller fish or other organisms to survive.

Each of these preyed-upon organisms accumulate small amounts of mercury by virtue of living in the water or by consuming food that has taken up mercury.

Hopefully you can see that if a large fish eats a lot of these smaller fish, then the large fish ends up inheriting the sum of the mercury from all the small fish eaten. This process is called [biomagnification](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioamplification).

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