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State and federal agencies probe fish kill in river

POSTED: May 24, 2011 11:44 a.m.

The Georgia EPD and the Department of Natural Resources are expected to get test results Wednesday from the Ogeechee River after state and federal officials issued an advisory Sunday evening, urging residents not to swim in or eat fish taken from the river.

The state DNR has posted warnings at several visible locations at the Steel Bridge landing off Highway 119. The Effingham Emergency Management Agency will post additional warning signs about possible fish contamination and swimming risks. The ramp and park remain open.

State environmental officials were expected to inspect King America Finishing, a fabric finishing plant 15 miles from Sylvania along the Ogeechee River, on Monday.

State and federal agencies began a comprehensive sampling Sunday morning, and data for review may be available as early as Wednesday. Until the cause of the kill is determined, citizens are advised to swimming or eating fish taken from the Ogeechee River.

Diana Wedincamp of the Ogeechee Riverkeeper said the group was upset that public had not been notified in a timely manner.

“There should have been signage at all landings, radio broadcasts, newspaper alerts, for the citizens to stay out of the river and not eat the fish,” she said. “We had citizens call worried because they had a fish fry with their family on Saturday and ate fish from this area. It is unacceptable that our government agency in charge of our health hesitates to warn the citizens when a disaster happens.”
Ogeechee Riverkeeper has traced the dead fish back to a direct discharge into the Ogeechee River, according to Wedincamp.

“There have been no citizens’ complaints above the discharge point,” she said. “All complaints and sightings have been below the discharge point.”

The Ogeechee Riverkeeper began getting calls from Blitchton about dead fish and fish about to die at homes along the Ogeechee.

The state and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency responded to a fish kill occurring in a 35-40-mile stretch of the Ogeechee River in Bulloch and Screven counties. The fish kill could have effects downstream in Effingham, Bryan and Chatham counties.

According to the DNR, early testing conducted has not identified a cause for the kill and the investigation is ongoing.
Anyone in Effingham County seeing dead fish in or near the Ogeechee River should call the Effingham County Emergency Management Agency at 754-8200.

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