South Carolina wildlife officials criticized Spartanburg Water last week for its role in one of the largest fish kills in state history.
The Department of Natural Resources said more than 200,000 fish died in Lake Bowen last May after the water provider tried to kill algae with a chemical compound. DNR chief of fisheries Ross Self told the agency’s board Thursday that copper in the algaecide caused the mass kill.
“This was a big one,” he said. “Between the two reservoirs, there were a total of 200,076 fish involved, primarily brim. There were 12 species with an economic value of $100,476.”
Self said Spartanburg Water did not violate any state pesticide rules, but several board members said they were concerned that DNR only found out about the fish kill when lake residents complained.
“It was handled in such a way that it appeared (Spartanburg Water) were hiding something,” board member Mike Hutchins said. “First of all, they didn’t call DNR. We had residents from the lake call DNR.”
He also criticized Spartanburg Water for removing many of the dead fish before DNR biologists could arrive to count them. However Self noted Spartanburg Water officials had contacted the state Department of Health and Environmental Health (DHEC), which is responsible for algae and clean water regulations. DHEC did not contact DNR, which oversees the state’s fish stocks.
Spartanburg Water had used the chemicals in early May in an effort to eradicate algae which was giving the drinking water an odor. The utility has said it did not expect the algaecide to kill fish, as well.