Algae bloom likely caused fish kill

Inner Harbor's second such event of summer

August 01, 2007|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,Sun reporter

An algae bloom appears to be the culprit behind dead fish found floating in the Inner Harbor yesterday morning, according to state environmental investigators.

The fish kill - the second in the harbor in two months attributed to an algae bloom - was first reported by residents who complained about a stench Monday night. Most of the fish appeared to be scattered on the south side of the harbor near the marina and Rash Field.

There were other fish closer to the Constellation, including some that washed up onto the concrete barrier. Investigators also found dead fish at Rock Creek, a tributary of the Patapsco River in Anne Arundel County, where officials said the water was colored red and brown, an indication of a high concentration of a certain type of algae. Water samples taken from the creek are being tested.

George Harman, program manager for environmental assessments and standards at the Maryland Department of the Environment, said investigators determined that the fish were not diseased and had been dead for several days.

While there is a possibility that sewage was dumped into the waterway, algae blooms are a frequent occurrence at this time of year, he said. When the algae die, as happens when water temperature exceeds 70 degrees, the water is depleted of oxygen, he said.

The 80 or so dead fish that investigators found in the Inner Harbor were white perch, menhaden, Atlantic silversides, striped bass and American eel.

David Slebzak, 37, was at the Inner Harbor yesterday throwing stale bread to pigeons and ducks. He lives on a boat docked near Hanover Street and said he saw some dead fish in the Patapsco River when he got up yesterday morning. He said he doubted an algae bloom was responsible and thought someone might have dumped chemicals into the water.

Chris Luckett, chief of the fish kill investigation section at MDE, said his agency had not been notified of the dead fish until a call from The Sun. He urged people to call MDE's 24-hour hot line - 877-224-7229 - to report dead fish.

Yesterday's kill did not appear to be as large or as widespread as one last month that killed more than 7,000 fish from the Inner Harbor to Canton. That was the result of an algae bloom, MDE officials said.

It was the largest fish kill in the Inner Harbor in five years.

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