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Joe Manchin III, Governor
Frank Jezioro, Director

News Release
For release:
June 1, 2006


Hoy Murphy , Public Information Officer (304) 558-3380

Contact: Lalena Price, WV Division of Environmental Protection (304) 926-0440

Agencies investigate fish kill in South Branch of the Potomac


ROMNEY - A fish kill on the South Branch of the Potomac River is being investigated by state and federal agencies.


Distressed and dead fish were reported late last week by river users near Romney in Hampshire County. West Virginia Division ofNatural Resources fisheries biologists, along with scientists from the United States Geological Survey's Leetown National Fish Health Laboratory and inspectors from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection are investigating the incident.


Bret Preston, assistant chief of the DNR's Wildlife Resources Section, said most of dead or dying fish were redhorse suckers and hogsuckers and were spotted primarily in the lower reach of the South Branch. A much lesser number of gamefish including smallmouth bass and rock bass also have been affected. Biologists collected fish for a health assessment and water quality experts took water and sediment samples the same day the fish were collected.


A timely response by agencies was possible because of a cooperative research partnership established by the DNR, the DEP and the USGS to study the intersex condition found in smallmouth bass following a similar fish kill in the South Branch in 2002. Dead suckers were also found in the Shenandoah River in Virginia and in the Potomac River last week.


Patrick Campbell, assistant director ofthe DEP's Division of Water and Waste Management, explained the project.


"We are continuing to examine and better understand intersex rates in smallmouth bass," Campbell said. "We are also looking for trace levels of pollutants, including pharmaceutical compounds and a variety of other possible endocrine disrupting compounds."


The involved agencies are monitoring the situation and await results of the fish health assessment and water quality tests, which may take several weeks. Fish kills observed in other streams should be reported by calling DEP's toll free emergency spill line at (800) 642-3074.


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