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Martin Creek Reservoir

This completed project assessed the safety of consuming fish from Martin Creek Reservoir.
photo of Martin Creek Lake
Martin Creek Lake

Counties: Panola, Rusk
Parameter: Selenium
Basin: Sabine River
Segment: 0505F

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Project Description and Goal

In 1992, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) issued an advisory restricting the consumption of fish from Martin Creek Reservoir because selenium concentrations found in fish tissue posed a risk to consumers. Selenium is a naturally occurring element that is widely but unevenly distributed in the earth’s crust. It is also an essential dietary element that prevents damage to tissues by oxygen. However, when consumed in amounts higher than the recommended daily allowance (RDA), selenium is toxic to humans and animals.

The goal of this project was to determine whether the consumption of fish from the reservoir still posed a threat to human health. TCEQ worked with DSHS to collect fish samples, conduct laboratory analyses, and characterize the risks to consumers from all contaminants found in fish tissue samples.

TCEQ communicated the progress of this project through the Sabine River Basin Steering Committee created by the Texas Clean Rivers Program. The project was a collaborative effort involving TCEQ, DSHS, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), and the Sabine River Authority (SRA).

Learn more about water quality standards, monitoring, and TMDLs by reading Preserving and Improving Water Quality, available on our website or in print.

Description of Watershed

Martin Creek Reservoir is an impoundment of Martin Creek, located five miles southwest of Tatum (population 1,310). It was constructed in 1974 to serve as a cooling reservoir for a steam-electric power plant. The western shore of the reservoir forms a portion of the county line between Rusk and Panola Counties.

This primarily rural watershed is in the Sabine River basin and drains an area of 130 square acres in northeast Rusk and northwest Panola Counties. Vegetation consists of mixed pine and hardwood forests. Lumber, farm, and dairy enterprises are the main sources of income for residents. Recreation is also important to the local economy, with boating and fishing attracting large numbers of people to the watershed each year.


After assessing all the data collected and characterizing the risks, DSHS concluded that consumption of fish from Martin Creek Reservoir no longer poses a threat to human health. The impairment “selenium in fish tissue” was proposed for delisting on the 2004 303(d) List, and DSHS rescinded the fish consumption advisory on October 14, 2004.

Contact the TMDL Program

Please email and mention Martin Creek Reservoir in the subject line. Or call us at 512-239-6682.

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