6,000 dead fish in Baltimore County waterways under investigation

Posted at 11:53 AM, Dec 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-28 06:28:30-05

An estimated 6,000 fish have died in waterways in eastern Baltimore County, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Investigators took notice last week after the dead fish were spotted in area waterways, including the Gunpowder and Bird rivers.

"Depends on the wind, you'll get some smells that come up here, but you don't really notice it too much until you see it," Neighbor Michael Zubalik said. He's lived off Bird River his entire life and is sad to see the current condition it's in.

The fish kill has affected at least nine species including yellow perch, largemouth bass, bluegill sunfish, pumpkinseed sunfish, carp, black crappie, gizzard shad, spottail shiner and channel catfish.

Preliminary results show toxins produced by algae to be the likely cause of death with no signs of pollution, according to Adrienne M. Diaczok of the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Elevated cell counts of Karlodinium venifecum algae were discovered in the Gunpowder River, officials said. The investigation is ongoing.

Last year, a toxin released by algae was responsible for the deaths of roughly 200,000 fish in Middle River. 

RELATED: Fish kill reaches 200,000 in Middle River

Residents should avoid coming into contact with the dead fish. Be sure to wash your hands afterward if the fish need to be handled or disposed of.

"We actually moved here because of the water," Courtney Gruber, President of the Bowerman Loreley Beach Community, said.

When it comes to seeing dead fish, she said she's used to it, "We've been seeing it for months and months and months, so it's not really the talk of the town, because we just kind of know that it is happening."

Zubalik says he only sees dead fish each year during the summer.

When asked about the huge number of dead fish Zubalik said, "that would concern me, I mean how does it affect us too and not just the fish?"

"At one time you could get in this water and go tubing, but that water's not even really what you would call trustworthy anymore... It's gotten dirtier, you know, obviously the fish now, what's going on with that. We've had signs put up in the past couple years that says no swimming," Zubalik said.

"Going back through my childhood, I've heard stories of how this water was clear almost. People could jump right off their bulkheads and into the water and just swim... Now you can't even see your hand under the water," Zubalik said he hopes something happens to help clean up the river.

Other neighbors are concerned as well, some involved in the Bird River Restoration Campaign, an effort to keep pollution out, and protect the Chesapeake Bay, which the river flows into.

Anyone with information on fish kills or environmental concerns involving the Chesapeake Bay or its tributaries should call the Bay environmental hotline at 877-224-7229.

RELATED: A toxin released by algae is blamed for killing 200,000 fish in the upper Middle River

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