Officials mull farm runoff as possible cause
NEWPORT — Tennessee state conservation, agricultural and environment officials are investigating a widespread fish kill along the lower Pigeon River.
The probe began on Aug. 12 after Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency officers noticed multiple species of dead fish along the river near Newport.
Aquatic life in the Pigeon River, a popular rafting, kayaking and fishing spot boasting big smallmouth bass, has steadily recovered following years of pollution from the upstream paper mill in Canton. The Pactiv Evergreen site permanently closed earlier this year, after it and previous owners drastically reduced the amount of effluent into the river. Fishing and whitewater sports rapidly took off from there.
TWRA didn’t immediately identify the reason for the fish kill, which remains under investigation, but alluded to sediment and agricultural runoff that spiked during heavy rains this month.
Here is the full news release from TWRA:
“The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and the Tennessee Dept. of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) are jointly investigating a fish kill on the Pigeon River above Newport.
“On Friday, TWRA wildlife officers reported dead fish on the Pigeon River from Edwina Bridge down to the Newport police station. TWRA fisheries biologists responded to the area documenting multiple species of dead fish at several locations. Based on the dispersal of the fish, recent water generation from the dam likely pushed them further downstream while leaving higher numbers of dead fish at the top of the kill zone.
“To determine potential contributing factors, biologists investigated the surrounding area and documented muddy runoff from agriculture fields likely caused by heavy rains in the area.
“TWRA biologists contacted the TDEC field office in Knoxville to assist with the incident and notified the Tennessee Department of Agriculture of the investigation.
The incident currently remains under investigation.”