Monday, April 23, 2012

Breaking News UPDATED: Massive fish kill on Rocky River being investigated

A “very large,” near-total, fish kill was reported late Sunday night along a five mile stretch of the Rocky River from Stronsgville, through Berea to a point where the east and west branches meet to form the main stem.

This location is Cleveland Metroparks’ Mill Stream Run Reservation in Strongsville.

Among the fish killed were steelhead trout and the bigmouth shiner, a state-listed threatened species.

Annually the Rocky River is stocked with about 100,000 steelhead trout smolt. This stocking has led the Rocky River to become one of the nation’s premier steelhead-fishing destinations.

Jarod Roos, the Wildlife Division District Three (Northeast Ohio office) law enforcement supervisor, was prepared to call it a “total fish kill” until agency officials found “some minnows and carp” about one and one-half mile downstream,” from the park, said Jamey Graham, the agency’s district spokeswoman.

“But they are still counting fish and should have an estimate on the number of dead fish later this afternoon,” Graham said.

Graham said the Wildlife Division was contacted through the agency’s 800-POACHER hotline.

Agents with the Wildlife Division began their inspection at first light, Graham said as well.

“There are about one dozen Wildlife Division employees and about the same number of Cleveland Metroparks employees,” Graham said.

The Ohio EPA is on site as well, taking tests of water samples, which will take about one week or more before results are known, said agency spokesman Mike Settles.

Mike Settles, Ohio EPA spokesman, said that whatever happened likely “happened late last week.”

“The reason we think this is because the Berea water treatment plant had a slight spike in the water’s pH level,” Settles said. “That’s a possible indicator that something went into the river. But there was no odor, no sheen on the water and no cloudiness to the water either.”

Settles said that the real job will be trying to determine the source with agency officials going so far as to remove manhole covers in sewers, and check out local businesses in an effort to “see if there was something that upset the system.”

“There’s just no obvious source for the fish kill at this time,” Settles said. “We will be back there (Tuesday).”

Settles did say that the majority of fish were found in the Strongsville portion of the impacted stream.

Cleveland Metroparks also conducts a stocking of trout each spring in the Rocky River.

“That stocking was to have occurred (Monday), but it has been moved to Wallace Lake,” said Graham.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

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