New Orleans, LA – Dead fish are covering the Pearl River south of the Bogalusa paper plant blamed for discharging toxic fluid into the water. The company - Temple-Inland of Austin, Texas - is taking responsibility. The affected area borders Mississippi, where officials have opened a reservoir north of the plant to flush the river system. Loyola University environmental scientist Bob Thomas says when he first learned of the dead fish, he thought it was likely a natural phenomenon that occurs in summer months in the region. But when more and more species were dying, he knew it was a much wider problem. He says turtles, for instance, don't have gills to process the water like fish, and shouldn't be dying. But they are.
"People in the ecotourism business are going to suffer for this. People who have their camps up and down that river are going to suffer. People who rely on the fish in the Pearl River for their protein source, and there an awful lot of people who get most of their protein out of that river, are going to suffer. And there are consequences beyond the obvious."
Thomas says the Pearl River system, like all bodies of water, is a unique environment, and he couldn't predict when the crisis will be over.
"Unfortunately, in every situation, the dynamics are a bit different. And so it's real hard to predict how long it will take and how -- what the outcome is going to be over a period of time."
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says at least two dozen species are part of the kill, including Gulf sturgeon, which are listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act.
For WWNO, I'm Eileen Fleming