Inside Job: Blowing Rock “Fish Kill” Probably Self-Inflicted

Inside Job: Blowing Rock “Fish Kill” Probably Self-Inflicted
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By David Rogers. June 18, 2015. BLOWING ROCK, NC — A late afternoon phone call to Blowing Rock News about a “fish kill” in the ponds of the New River condominiums on Valley Blvd. certainly raised a lot of questions Wednesday — but mostly resulted in a good hour of “cardio” for a reporter and a condo owner at the residential complex.

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Scores of fish, now dead, were concentrated near the water intake.

COVER IMAGE: There were dead fish alright — scores of them — but it appears the fish kill was an inside job. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News

With certainty, there were dead fish floating on the surface of the complex’s algae-filled ponds — scores of what appeared to be perch, in fact, bug-eyed and rolled over on their sides.  Because they were concentrated near the inlet to the upper pond, the first obvious question was whether they had come from New River Lake, in the housing development just above. Slipping through the development’s gated entrance and walking around the lake brought no signs of dead fish along the banks of that body of water, but New River resident Joe Amoroso said he had spoken with a woman earlier in the day who said she had seen dead fish near the intake to New River Lake, where the water flows down from Blowing Rock Country Club.

The Blowing Rock News investigative team did not see any dead fish at the New River intake, but a trip up to the BRCC lake and dam made sense, just to be sure. Again, no signs of dead fish or any kind of pollutants that might affect the inhabitants of streams, lakes, or bonds downstream.

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Although a dead fish is seen floating at the top of this photo, scores of live fish (possibly of a different species) are seen crowding the shallow waters as near as possible to the water intake.

A more rigorous inspection of the scene back at the New River ponds suggests that the fish kill is probably an “inside job.”  With the help of New River Lake resident Mike Ambrose, it was determined that the pond’s flow-through of fresh water is barely a trickle, so the build-up of algae and other decay in the ponds is depriving the resident fish of sufficient oxygen to live. Their concentration at the intake of fresh water is explained by that being where the highest levels of oxygen are in the otherwise “dead” pond, so that is where living fish would all try to get to — and why so many still living fish could be seen near the surface just below the intake, as if they, too, were trying to get the most possible oxygen (see photo at right).

Late Wednesday evening, Amoroso spoke with Blowing Rock News and said that a landscape professional he had contacted confirmed the oxygen deprivation theory. There are a couple of fixes, he said, including cleaning out the intake water lines so that a higher volume of fresh water flows through the system of ponds in the development, or the possibility of installing solar powered aeration devices in the condominium campus’ ponds to increase their oxygen levels.

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