A fish kill at Lake George has residents scratching their heads, but getting few answers from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources because the lake is surrounded by private property.
Carolyn Belcher with DNR’s Coastal Resources Division said the agency had received a call about a number of dead fish in the lake, but the caller had not followed up and DNR had taken no action. “Our fish kill procedures are for public waters,” Belcher said.
Numerous unconfirmed reports suggest deaths of alligators, crabs and other species, as well as fish. Belcher said a verified alligator death would raise another question for DNR because of alligators’ protected status.
Lake George residents, who were not willing to have their names published, have questioned if the lake had been poisoned, if saltwater intrusion was killing the freshwater fish or if depletion of dissolved oxygen in the lake water was to blame. Oxygen depletion, frequently linked with excessive algae growth, is a common cause of fish kills but usually occurs in warmer weather.
Fish kills can also be caused by various viruses, bacteria and fungi in addition to parasites such as flukes and worms. These are naturally occurring in many bodies of water, and fish that are stressed are particularly vulnerable.
Other causes like agricultural runoff, sewage, surface runoff, chemical spills and hazardous waste spills can all potentially lead to water toxicity and fish kills.
Lake George is an artificial freshwater lake separated from salt and brackish water by a levee. A leak in the levee or overtopping it would let in salt or brackish water, harming freshwater species. Last year’s storms brought extremely high water to Liberty County and residents report the levee was topped by the storm surge.
That was last September. One Lake George resident said Thursday a large fish kill happened about two weeks ago and speculated that saltwater was the cause. Large numbers of buzzards were reported to be eating the dead fish.
Another man said he had counted 21 dead fish on his land. He said he had heard several different reasons as possible causes of the kill.
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