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Fish kill reported in Licking Creek

July 07, 2009

HANCOCK -- A fish kill discovered last week in Licking Creek near Hancock claimed about 150 fish, Maryland Department of the Environment officials said Tuesday morning.

MDE spokeswoman Dawn Stoltzfus said agency officials went out Thursday to check the area and found dead fish concentrated around the Slabtown Road crossing west of the Indian Springs Wildlife Management Area.

Among the dead fish were suckers, sunfish, darters, dace and some smallmouth bass, Stoltzfus said.

MDE staff initially inspected a nearby farm, but ruled out the farm as the cause of the fish kill.

"At this point, we've pretty much ruled out any major source and believe the fish kill may have occurred due to a minor introduction or spill of something," she said.

The possible spillage, which might have happened at the Slabtown Road crossing, diluted quickly, Stoltzfus said.

"Overall, it was a fairly minor event, but we are continuing to investigate," she said.

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In 2006, fish deaths in parts of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers attracted the attention of officials in at least three states.

MDE officials in Maryland said at the time that they believed those deaths were consistent with records of fish kills over the last 30 years.

A similar fish kill happened in 2002, when large numbers of sucker fish died up and down the Potomac River. According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the die-off of sucker fish in 2002 was a naturally occurring phenomenon unrelated to pollution, The Herald-Mail reported at the time.

Officials said area rivers and streams have bounced back and forth with fish-health issues over the last several years.

-- Marlo Barnhart


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