Fishing, swimming advisories in effect for Ogeechee River; EPD investigating reports of dead fish

Complaints of dead fish and peculiar fish activity, similar to reports one year ago, have been coming in from those who live on the Ogeechee River.

Fishing and swimming advisories in effect for Ogeechee River; EPD investigating reports of dead fish (WRDW-TV, May 27, 2012)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

SCREVEN COUNTY, Ga. -- Just when you thought the fish kill on the Ogeechee River was over, it could be happening again.

"We got the first citizens' complaint early this week, so we reported that to EPD," said Ogeechee Riverkeeper Dianna Wedincamp.

Complaints of dead fish and peculiar fish activity, similar to reports one year ago, have been coming in from those who live on the river.

A team of scientists and students from Auburn University were in Screven County, taking samples of the water and investigating.

Alan Wilson, a freshwater scientist and an assistant professor at Auburn University, said, "I'm not surprised that we're back. The river seems at a worse state ... the river flow is low, lower than it was last year."

And along with scientists and the Riverkeeper, EPD has been investigating, too.

"So far they have been finding fish with spots and that may have colonaris," Wedincamp said.

Colonaris is the bacteria that caused last year's fish kill, and the Riverkeeper says poor water quality is to blame.

"There are reports of dead fish at just about all the landings downstream," she said.

And all of those landings are now for public safety.

"Since there's been a big issue last year, they'd rather take public health first," Wedincamp said.

King America Finishing released a press release, saying, "The river meets water quality standards without any areas of concern ..."

We are told EPD is testing water from their discharge pipe as we speak.

"It's frustrating because whatever happens upstream affects everyone downstream," Wedincamp said.

And, even though there are less fish turning up this year, experts say last year's fish kill may be to blame for the skewed numbers.

"Really, the population of fish has not rebounded yet from last year," she said.

And until all of the test results are clear, no one will be kicking off their summer by fishing or swimming in the Ogeechee.

"This is Memorial Day weekend, there should be people behind us using this resource and they're not out here today," Wilson said.

This incident has not been officially ruled a fish kill, but there is a hearing set where the public will be able to comment on a water permit for that company.

The Riverkeeper wants regulators to ban the company from releasing ammonia and formaldehyde and set stricter rules on colored discharges.

The meeting is set for June 12 at Effingham High School.


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