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Ogeechee River safe for swimming, but what killed the fish?


Dead fish have been cropping up in the Ogeechee River. (May, 2011)

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Friday, May 27, 2011

DOVER, Ga.---David Gay lives along the Ogeechee River.

"I mean, you look behind me at that sandbar it's usually loaded with people who can't afford to go to the beach," he told News 12.

He has a special name for the place he calls home.

"It's a poor man's Fiji. It's just a beautiful place, and a lot of people feed their families with the fish out of this river," he said.

Last Friday, some of his friends noticed something unusual.

"They started seeing massive amounts of dead fish floating," Gay said "It was just--it was biblical. Just thousands of fish. Not hundreds, but thousands of fish."

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division says a bacterial infection caused the massive fish kill. It's not known to harm humans. They say it's caused by environmental stress.

"They did die of natural causes, but something stressed them to the point that caused them to get into that situation," he said.

Gay wants to know what stressed them. He has his hypothesis. News 12 interviewed Gay on the 301 bridge in Dover where the only fish that could be spotted in the water were dead ones. Upstream below the Ogeechee Road Bridge, Gay says everything is fine. Gay says that means the problem must have arisen somewhere in the middle. And it just so happens that an industrial plant is right in between the two spots along the river.

"We've had people--individuals and landowners in the river--fish below and above, and it's like night and day. You can catch fish above, but you can't catch them below," Gay said.

Gay isn't pointing fingers, but he hopes conditions get better before Memorial Day.

"It's recession time, everybody is hurting monetarily wise, so they're not going to the beach, so you're liable to see hundreds of people out here," he said.

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1212 Augusta, GA 30903 Main Telephone: (803) 278-1212 Newsroom: (803) 278-3111 Fax: (803) 442-4561
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