Thousands of fish killed during chemical discharge
Firefighters initially suspected that Dover Chemical Corp. had something to do with the Aug. 13 fish kill in the Sugar Creek, just west of Dover — a suspicion that has been confirmed by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
Firefighters were notified at 10:28 a.m. that day that employees of Wayne Auto Parts on state Route 516 could smell a chlorine-type odor in the salvage yard, and later saw dead and dying fish in the nearby creek.
Fire Capt. Brooks Ross, in his report, said employees told firefighters that they smelled the strong odor of chlorine when they arrived for work about 8 a.m. “A little while later, an employee heard a lot of splashing in the creek that runs behind the salvage yard,” Ross said.
The employee investigated and saw several “dead or dying fish in the creek,” and also noticed a white foam coming from discharge on the east bank of the creek, according to Ross’ report.
Firefighters, however, found no detectable odor, nor foam, when they walked the creek bank to investigate. They also used a sensitive detection paper to sample the water, “but no obvious findings were noted,” Ross wrote.
But, “believing the water discharge that we saw came from Dover Chemical Corp., we stopped by their office and advised them of the situation,” Ross noted.
Jamey Graham, spokeswoman for the ODNR’s Division of Wildlife, estimated that 4,000 to 5,000 fish were killed in the incident.
Graham also said at the time that the cause was unknown, but added that it was “a non-natural occurrence.” She said the fish kill was caused by “some sort of toxic substance,” and that tests are being performed to determine what the substance was.
Graham said ODNR authorities responded to the scene just after firefighters, and they found only dead fish — not mammals, birds or other wildlife.
The affected area was just more than a mile in length, and was about a mile and half upstream of the Tuscarawas River.
Reports of dead fish on the Tuscarawas River near New Philadelphia about two weeks later were not believed to be related to a fish kill along the Sugar Creek near Dover, according to Graham.
A person saw “a significant number of dead fish” near the W. High Avenue bridge over the river in New Philadelphia and notified state Wildlife Officer Wade Dunlap, who covers Tuscarawas County, Graham said recently.
During the initial investigation, Dunlap found dead fish as far south as near Gnadenhutten, roughly about 13 miles downstream.
Jim Roudebush, coordinator of the Tuscarawas County Hazardous Materials Team, said that incident was reported to him by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s Spill Response Division.
Erin Strouse, OEPA media relations coordinator, recently said that the EPA could not pinpoint a single source for the Tuscarawas River fish kill, which occurred on or about Aug. 25. However, it is believed that a nutrient enrichment likely came from various sources, “and — combined with high temperatures and low river flow — resulted in the oxygen sag and subsequent fish kill.”