3,000 fish die after sewage spill in Athens

WAAY 31 learned what the community thinks of the spill and what the city is doing about it.

Posted: Jun 4, 2019 7:30 PM
Updated: Jun 4, 2019 7:31 PM

The City of Athens is investigating how 3,000 fish died from a sewage spill.

The sewage leak happened near the old Pilgrim's Pride site and overflowed into a Swan Creek tributary.

WAAY 31 learned what the community thinks of the spill and what the city is doing about it.

“Fishing is like my favorite thing to do, my favorite hobby," Nelson Brown said. "I also just like seeing the nature and how beautiful it is whenever I go outside every day.”

Nelson Brown is an avid outdoors-man and told WAAY 31 he spends a lot of his free time at Swan Creek.

“I love holding the fish, catching the fish, reeling them in," he said. "Fish are definitely my favorite animal, for sure.”

So, when Brown learned roughly 3,000 of his favorite animal were killed from a sewage spill, he was upset.

“I was like ‘What?!’ I’m down here pretty often and that takes away the chance for me to fish down here if there’s no fish and they all died," he said.

The city is in the process of cleaning up the old Pilgrim's Pride plant. The fish kill happened when a bag inside a sewer line wasn't removed like it should have been and caused an overflow into the creek.

Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks told WAAY 31 the city is taking the matter seriously and an investigation is underway.

Some of the affected fish include bass, sunfish, yellow bullheads, and large-scale stone-rollers.

It also includes about 17 slackwater darters—a fish that is federally listed as a threatened species.

“There are not very many of them left," Nelson said. "And killing just one is really bad for that species.”

Some folks who visit Swan Creek told WAAY 31 they've wondered where all the fish have gone.

“At the bridge area down here, I’ll look over it and see if I see any fish swimming around," Becky Smith said. "Maybe I’ve seen a couple of little ones, but I keep thinking, ‘I wonder where all the fish are.’ I just wondered because I didn’t see a whole heck of a lot.”

People we talked to said they hope this doesn’t happen again. And while Brown loves to fish, he told us he always releases them so they can continue living.

“I don’t intentionally try to kill any fish," he said.

Alabama Wildlife agents told WAAY 31 it's not practical to remove the fish because they decompose quickly this time of year.

The mayor told WAAY 31 they are working to take corrective action and ensure that this doesn’t happen again.

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