After an extensive analysis of the Little River embayment, TWRA fisheries biologists are still uncertain as to what caused thousands of fish to be killed late last week.
TWRA District 41 Lt. Andy Collins and Officer Anthony Chitwood responded to a call about dead fish washing ashore sometime late Saturday evening. Fisheries Biologist Jim Negus arrived early on Sunday morning and began investigating the incident.
Negus believes that the fish kill was relatively short-lived and occurred between late Thursday and Saturday morning in the area below Alcoa Hwy. and the mouth of the river where it enters the Tennessee. He also believes that low dissolved oxygen content is not to blame. “Oftentimes, fish kills are caused by low dissolved oxygen content however, there is too much flow in this area of both the Tennessee and Little Rivers,” Negus stated. The biologist also noted that witnesses did not notice any fish struggling as would be the case in a low dissolved oxygen event, the fish just showed up dead.
The Tennessee Valley Authority is under the same opinion that dissolved oxygen was not likely a cause for that area of the reservoir.
Negus interviewed multiple witnesses and spoke with the manager of a sewage treatment plant upstream who stated that nothing unusual occurred at the facility during the past week.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has also investigated the event and has not identified any industrial sources for possible contaminants.
Negus estimates that between 2,000-4,000 fish were killed and as many as 15 species were affected.