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International Society for Infectious Diseases <http://www.isid.org>

Date: Thu 24 May 2012
Source: WSAV.com [edited]

Just one year after the largest fish kill in Georgia history, more fish have been found dead along the Ogeechee River banks, prompting a swimming and fishing advisory in Bulloch and Effingham counties.

Nearly 40 000 fish died in the Ogeechee River last year [2011]. A textiles company -- King America Finishing -- was found to be at least partly to blame. King America was fined one million dollars for illegal dumping of several chemicals not allowed in its permit. Those include formaldehyde and ammonia. The dumping had been going on for 5 years.

Just after our story aired this Monday [21 May 2012] on News 3 at 6, a viewer called and said he had seen more dead fish at 301 landing. The Ogeechee Riverkeeper spent most of yesterday [23 May 2012] searching the river and found more. Then, on Thursday [24 May 2012], the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was out at Oliver Bridge near Statesboro collecting even more dead fish.

So far, at least 4 species of fish and some crawfish are dying. This raises concern because whatever is causing it, it's affecting many different kinds of life in the river.

DNR says there are a few things that could be causing this die off.
Water levels are even lower than they were this time last year [2011], and the combination of warmer water temperatures and the lack of rain makes the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

The Environmental Protection Division determined that the fish last year [2011] died of columnaris, a bacterial disease caused by environmental stressors. This of course comes as bad news for the Ogeechee Riverkeeper. Director, Dianna Wedincamp says she is not surprised. "We've been saying over and over that this is going to happen. My prediction is that they will probably come up with the same old same old. They will say it's the columnaris disease or whatever, as long as they are not saying that it's coming from that discharge pipe. We will continue to tell the public that there is un-permitted discharge, and we don't think is safe for the public to swim in."

DNR will continue to study the river up and downstream from that King America Finishing discharge pipe. They will have crews working all day tomorrow [25 May 2012] and through the weekend, and the Riverkeeper plans to be out there as well.

Again, it's worth repeating -- and pass this along to your family and friends -- the Bulloch County Public Safety Division is issuing a swimming and fishing advisory. Effingham County Emergency Management has also posted an advisory.

We contacted the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) in Atlanta on Monday [21 May 2012], and here is what they had to tell us:
Regular testing by King America Finishing and the company's contractor shows the river meets water quality standards, and there are no areas of concern.

The EPD says it did its own special sampling on 28 Mar [2012] and found ammonia both upstream and downstream of the plant, but at low concentrations. It says formaldehyde was not detected.

Meanwhile, for the 1st time since 2000, King America Finishing is up for a new permit. A public hearing on that is set for Tue 12 Jun 2012 at 7:00 pm at the Effingham County High School.

[Byline: Meredith Ley]

Communicated by:
ProMED-mail from HealthMap alerts

[It is possible that the origin of this event is multifactorial. Even if the outbreak investigation shows the fish died of columnaris disease, a contribution of pollution or other form of environmental disruption cannot be ruled out.

Columnaris disease is caused by _Flavobacterium columnare_, a Gram-negative bacterium. It affects freshwater fish worldwide. Ammonia concentrations in water can affect the severity of _Flavobacterium columnare_ infections in fish (see <http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08997659.2011.616836>).

A ProMED HealthMap of the affected area can be accessed at:
<http://healthmap.org/r/2u90>. - Mod.PMB]

[see also:
Undiagnosed die-off, fish - USA (02): (GA) columnaris 20110528.1641 2010
Undiagnosed fish die-off - USA (04): (WV, OH, PA) columnaris
Columnaris disease, fish - USA 20091111.3908
Columnaris, white bass - USA (Kansas) 19990713.1178] .................................................sb/pmb/msp/dk/ll
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