Water quality advocates test New River waters after fish kills found

Water quality advocates test New River waters after fish kills found
Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 5:27 PM EDT
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SNEADS FERRY, N.C. (WITN) - Two fish kills reported in Sneads Ferry in the span of one week prompted waterkeepers and a volunteer organization to find out the cause.

The Coastal Carolina Riverwatch says that the first fish kill was on Sept. 13th, when a citizen reported seeing dead fish of all sizes in Everett Lake, in the Chadwick Stores neighborhood of the community. The neighborhood is found along the Fullard Creek at the mouth of the New River.

State Department of Environmental Quality inspectors visited the site the next day and found 5-10 dead fish, mostly red drums. No unusual color or odor from the pond had been noted and it was thought that heavy rain may have flushed some organic matter from the wetland which drains into the pond that also gets runoff from roads in the area.

On Monday evening, CCRW staff say a much larger algae bloom was seen with fish kills reported at the end of Fannie Creek Lane along the New River. CCRW Advocacy Committee Member Adam Jones reported the bloom to the state.

Onslow County resident Jenna Jones says she noticed an unpleasant odor coming from the water.

“My husband also noticed a couple of dead crabs and a large dead fish... didn’t really put it all together until that smell started and that’s when we reached out to Adam with the Coastal Carolina Riverwatch to come take a look at what was going on.”

New River near Fannie Creek Lane
New River near Fannie Creek Lane(Adam Jones, Coastal Carolina Riverwatch Advocacy Committee member)

On Wednesday, Jones and the CCRW took samples out of the water with a drone. The algae had moved down the river over time, making the drone the easiest option.

Riley Lewis, White Oak waterkeeper, helped Jones and then explained how the algae blooms come about.

“This can be nutrients that flow into the water, like fertilizers that help the algae grow really rapidly,” Lewis said. “There’s also toxins that can get into the water like pesticides. And that just kills the fish via the toxins.”

Lewis says that if you see an algae bloom, you should stay out of the water. “If you do see blooms, go ahead and report them if you can. The DEQ does have an online portal where you can submit your observations and they will come out and report it.”

The CCRW says a full report on the fish kills will be released later this week.

Water quality inspectors are expected to send a wildlife biologist out to the New River site in a few weeks, but because of staffing, it may take some time to do a thorough assessment.

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