Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

March 12, 2014

Hundreds of dead fish found in creek

ROCKY GAP, Va. — Inspectors with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality were on the scene Tuesday after anglers discovered hundreds of dead fish in Laurel Creek near Interstate 77.

“We have an area extending approximately a mile to a mile and a half of fish kill,” J. Alex Sneed of the department’s pollution response program said along the banks of the creek.

The zone with dead fish extends from an Interstate 77 bridge near the East River Mountain Tunnel to where Laurel Creek meets Wolf Creek, Sneed said. The incident was reported at approximately 10:30 a.m. Tuesday after local anglers discovered dead fish in the stream. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries had stocked the stream with trout on Monday.

“We have a significant amount of trout that have been impacted,” Sneed said, estimating the number of dead fish was in the hundreds.

The fish died after area firefighters extinguished a vehicle fire Monday along I-77. Approximately 5,500 gallons of chlorinated tap water and fire fighting foam went down a highway drain and into the creek, he said.

Sneed said the creek should be able to recover, and that there “was no reason to believe” there was any threat to the public.

Besides trout, the contaminated water that flowed into the stream left other species of fish dead.

“It’s really killed everything in the creek,” Sneed said. “It killed all the minnows and other smaller species of fish.”

One resident who lives along Laurel Creek did not know about the dead fish until Sneed and his team arrived and asked if they could check the stream next to his property.

“I was clearing a building out when I heard the dog barking,” said Tony Scott, 42, of Rocky Gap, Va. “They asked if I had seen any dead fish.”

Scott and his wife, Amanda, saw the dead fish when Sneed and his coworkers started seeking out and counting them.

“We counted 43 in a 50-foot span,” Scott said. He frequently fishes in Laurel Creek. “I’ve caught as many as 22 in one day. I guess I won’t be doing that for a while.”

“We do a lot of catch and release,” Amanda Scott said, looking at the stream. “It breaks my heart.”

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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