Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

March 14, 2014

State officials: Estimated 2,200 fish died in Laurel Creek incident

ROCKY GAP, Va — More than 2,000 fish died during an incident this week at a Bland County stream, but there are plans to restock it with trout in the near future, state officials said Thursday.

Members of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s pollution response program were sent Tuesday to Laurel Creek after local anglers discovered numerous dead fish. They soon determined that a kill zone extended for a mile to a mile and a half through the stream.

Investigators are attributing the fish kill to runoff from a vehicle fire that was extinguished Monday evening along Interstate 77 near the East River Mountain Tunnel. An estimated 5,500 gallons of chlorinated tap water, along with firefighting foam, went into Laurel Creek, according to J. Alex Sneed with the pollution response program.

Work on the final fish kill investigation report was still ongoing Thursday, but there was a count on the approximate number of fish that died.

“We estimate somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,200,” Sneed said. “What we did was divide up the stream, the kill area, into three different segments. And we counted the dead fish in each of those segments. We had rainbow trout, sculpin, minnows, darters and hog suckers.”

The chemicals used to extinguish the vehicle fire contributed to the fish kill.

“We are attributing the kill to the run off from the firefighting activities from the accident,” Sneed said. “After receiving information on the firefighting foams that were used, we believe that the foams depleted the oxygen in the stream.”

The water containing this runoff came down the stream “in a quick, short amount of time” and depleted Laurel Creek’s oxygen as it headed to Wolf Creek, he said.

“We do not believe any fish were impacted in Wolf Creek,” Sneed said.

The water carrying the firefighting foam should have passed through the creek by this time, he stated.

“The creek will be OK for fish again, and I have spoken with the (Virginia) Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and they do plan to restock the stream with trout in the near future,” Sneed stated.

In Southwest Virginia, fish kills are fairly rare, he said.

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