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Crews worked Monday afternoon to remove hundreds of dead fish from the Spoon River at Bernadotte. The fish apparently died from a low oxygen level, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. GATEHOUSE MEDIA ILLINOIS

Fish kill reported in Spoon River

September 25, 2013 at 10:11 AM

Galesburg Register Mail

BERNADOTTE — Hundreds of dead fish have washed up on the Spoon River banks and dam in Bernadotte, and it’s possible that corn syrup from tanker cars that fell in upstream could have contributed to the mortalities.

People stopped by the dam behind the Bernadotte Public Park Monday afternoon to see fish lying on the concrete structure and floating in the water.

Russell Rector Jr. of Smithfield was one of those who came to witness the fish kill, but he didn’t expect what he saw.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “It’s amazing to see all those. I heard there were dead fish, but I didn’t realize it would be like this.”

Reports of dead fish came in early Saturday morning, according to Rob Hilsabeck, a fish biologist for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. A count on Saturday afternoon found that about 400 fish lining a more than 1,000-foot section of the river had died from an apparent low oxygen level.

The majority were non-native, invasive Asian Carp, and eight of them were Channel Catfish, he said.
“They’re very prominent in that location, and they do require a fair amount of oxygen,” Hilsabeck said of the Asian Carp.

He noted that it’s possible the carp congregated above the dam — which is roughly 10 river miles downstream from the location of last week’s accident — because the water there is calmer and deeper than in other spots.

The oxygen level in that area apparently dipped between Friday evening and Saturday morning.

The IDNR and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency had concerns last week that corn syrup leaking from partially submerged tanker cars could degrade and deplete the water of its oxygen, perhaps killing aquatic wildlife.

Six cars fell into the river after a trestle bridge near Seville collapsed Sept. 16. No injuries were reported in the incident.

Crews from the Keokuk Junction Railway, the owner of the train, and Pioneer Railcorp, Keokuk Railway’s parent company, were at the site Monday afternoon to clear the fish. Using waders and a small boat, they loaded them into 5-gallon buckets before taking them to a tub in the back of a pickup truck.

In addition to the cleanup, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency requested that an air pump be used to “alleviate any low oxygen concerns,” Hilsabeck said.

He said it didn’t appear there were any new fish mortalities Sunday and Monday and any dead fish still seen were likely from the original drop in oxygen. Both agencies will continue to monitor the area.
“Hopefully we’ve seen the worst of it,” Hilsabeck said.

The initial collapse is still under investigation. A call made to Pioneer Railcorp was not immediately returned Monday evening.

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