JEFFERSON, Iowa — Staff from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fisheries divison was in Greene County Thursday, investigating a fish kill discovered Wednesday in Hardin Creek east of Jefferson.
They were be working to determine the number of fish killed, whether it was a total kill and a possible cause, said Jake Theis, an environmental specialist at the DNR office in Atlantic, which conducted the preliminary investigation Wednesday.
Theis told the GreeneCountyNewsOnline the portion of the creek impacted is downstream from the bridge on Iowa Highway 4 north of Jefferson or south of Neola Avenue. The creek meanders eastward and southward through Hardin Township. A bridge two miles east of Jefferson on U.S. Highway 30 also crosses Hardin Creek.
Theis said he stopped seeing dead fish at 255th Street in Grant Township, near where the creek enters the Raccoon River, and he saw no dead fish in the Raccoon River itself.
“I didn’t see any dead fish above the Neola Avenue bridge crossing,” he said. “So it would have to have started somewhere above that bridge crossing. It’s hard to say how far above because it can depend on the strength of the material as to whether or not it kills fish immediately when it enters the creek or if it has to do its job once it gets in there.”
Theis said he found many species of dead fish. He saw no living fish but added that the water was cloudy, and it is possible there were living fish in deeper holes in the creek bed.
DNR fisheries staff members were seen counting dead fish at the 235th Street bridge over Hardin Creek at about noon Thursday. Theis said they are trying to determine the extent and cause of the fish kill.
“The possibilities are really endless until we get our samples back to see if we get any hits on that,” he said. “It’s really tough to say at this point.”
He said if an environmental contaminant is found, the party responsible for fouling the creek will be liable for its cleanup. The kill could also have a natural cause, he said.
“I have no confidence in saying any direction the investigation will go,” Theis said.
Victoria Riley is the editor and publisher of the GreeneCountyNewsOnline.