Massive fishkill at Pearl River, clean up underway

Residents in the Walkaih area along the Pearl River are being asked not to eat fish they get from the river. Advisories against drinking tap water will not be issued.

On Friday, some residents along the river began to notice fish were starving for air. By Saturday the river was teeming with dead fish, clams, and even reports of turtles.

Temple-Inland, an Austin-based company with a paper mill in Bogalusa, admits their pipeline in Washington Parish discharged a toxic substance called “black liquor” into the river. The company is permitted to release certain chemicals into the river, but only after they have been treated.

A release on the New Orleans’ WWL website reports the paper company may have exceeded its allowable discharge limit. That discharge could have lowered the dissolved oxygen levels in the Pearl River below those required to maintain a healthy fish population. The effects can already be seen about 50 miles downriver, in the Rigolets. The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation says there’s strong evidence the discharge has reached Lake Pontchartrain.

Representatives with MDEQ, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the state health department are taking water samples. The MDEQ issued a precautionary advisory against swimming or wading.

According to a Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality news release Monday, several thousand aquatic species that live at the top, middle, and bottom of the river are dead or dying, including paddlefish, American eels, catfish, bass, bluegill, and shad. LDEQ is also conducting tests on the river water.

The LDEQ release said they worked with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife, Department of Health and Hospitals, the Governor’s Office, and Homeland Security and determined that a slug of partially treated or untreated wastewater reached the river and may have caused or contributed to the fish kill.


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