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EPD says Ogeechee River fish now safe to eat

POSTED: June 3, 2011 3:09 p.m.

It’s safe to eat fish caught from the Ogeechee River, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division said Friday.

The announcement came a week after a ban on swimming in the river was lifted, and two weeks after a massive fish kill that left thousands of dead fish on the banks of the south Georgia blackwater river.

Tests on fish tissue conducted by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency found no reason to avoid consuming fish caught from the river, said Kevin Chambers, spokesman for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources EPD.

Earlier tests proved the fish died from a severe outbreak of columnaris, a bacteria caused by “environmental stress.” The cause of that stress has yet to be determined.

“Based on laboratory analysis, fish caught in the Ogeechee River are safe to eat,” said Jim Ussery, assistant EPD director. “Even though we are lifting the advisories for swimming and fish consumption, this does not mean our investigation has ended.  We will continue to look for the cause of the fish kill.”

Whole body fish tissue was analyzed from small-mouth bass, large-mouth bass, bullhead catfish, bowfin and pickerel, Chambers said. 

While columnaris is not known to affect humans, several citizens called area health agencies with reports of rashes, nausea, blisters and diarrhea. Health authorities have not linked any illness to the river issues, and EPD officials recommend anyone with any health questions should contact their personal physicians.

Citizens concerned about the Ogeechee River and the recent fish kill are invited to a public meeting Sunday at 5 p.m. at the old Dashers landing on Highway 80 near the Bryan/Effingham county line.

Organizer Wayne Carney said Sen. Jack Hill, state Rep. Jan Tankersley, and other legislators are expected to attend the meeting, as well as Ogeechee Riverkeeper Dianna Wedincamp and officials from the Environmental Protection Division.

For more information, contact the Ogeechee Riverkeeper at 1-866-942-6222 or Carney at 912-858-2708.



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