On June 7, 1999, a major fish kill was reported on the Ohio River between RM 176.5 and 185.0. On June 8, 1999, a fish kill investigation was conducted by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) between RM 175.0 and 187.0. Eighty stations were sampled along the West Virginia shoreline, including all shorelines associated with islands and open water sections. Dead fish were found at 68 of the 80 stations. Based upon the numbers of dead fish found, it is estimated that approximately 4,000 fish were killed. Ninety-eight percent of the dead fish werefreshwater drum, Channel catfish, hybrid striped bass, bluegill, walleye, sauger, gizzard shad and suckers were also observed. FWS personnel continued to observe dead or distressed fish between RM 176.0 and 181.5 from June 9 through June 18, 1999.
On June 8, 1999, FWS divers inspected mussel beds at Muskingum Island (upstream of the Eramet facility), Vienna Island (approximately 600 feet downstream from the Eramet facility), and Site 11 (approximately three miles downstream from the Eramet facility). Native and zebra mussels were alive and siphoning normally at all three sites.
On July 8, 1999, a smaller fish kill was reported between RM 178.0 and 182.0. WVDNR investigated and found one dead channel catfish and six freshwater drum. Witnesses in the area reported that dead and dying fish had been numerous the proceeding two days (July 6 and 7, 1999).
On September 2, 1999, FWS divers, conducting a routine survey, discovered that a major kill of freshwater mussels had occurred at Site 11 (RM 179.0 to180.0). Zebra mussels, an invasive mussel which in recent years had been abundant, were absent. Many dead or distressed native mussels were also observed.
Site 11 had been inhabited in recent years by two federally-listed endangered species, the pink mucket pearly mussel and the fanshell. Pink mucket pearly mussel juveniles were documented at Site 11 as recently as 1991, and fanshell juveniles were documented at Site 11 as recently as 1994. Thus, although none of these species were found dead, it is reasonable to conclude some were in the area and, therefore, affected by the release.
On September 8 and 9, 1999, FWS divers collected mussel samples and videotaped the substrate at selected locations between RM 175 and 181. Native and zebra mussels upstream of the facility at Muskingum Island were alive and siphoning normally. However, downstream of the facility, zebra mussels, which had previously been abundant, were absent or dead for more than a four-mile segment of the river below the facility’s discharge. Native mussels were also dead or distressed at Vienna Island and Site 11.
A second major fish kill was reported on October 4, 1999. WVDNR found over 5,000 dead fish from RM 176.0 to 187.0. About 96 percent of the fish killed were freshwater drum. Dead sauger and gizzard shad were also observed.
On October 18 and 19, 1999, biologists from the FWS and WVDNR inspected the bottom of the Ohio River between RM 175.3 (upstream of the facility) and RM 179.9 using a drop camera. Native and zebra mussels were alive and siphoning normally from RM 175.3 to 176.9 (upstream of the facility’s discharge). No live mussels were observed along the Ohio shoreline between RM 176.9 and 179.9 (downstream from the facility).
A quantitative survey of Site 11 conducted by Ecological Specialists, Inc. (ESI) in May 2000, found native and zebra mussel mortality to be 100 percent. In addition, ESI reported that gastropod (snail) mortality was 99.8 percent and that there were no living benthic invertebrates within 260 feet of the Ohio shoreline. A second quantitative survey in October 2000, found similar results in the segment of the Ohio River from the facility’s discharge to the head of Neal Island, which is part of the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge (ORINWR). ESI expanded its surveys down to the Belleville Dam (RM 203) and estimated that over 990,000 native mussels, and over 12,000,000 snails were lost from discrete sampling locations over a 20-mile stretch of the Ohio River. The actual kill was likely much larger. The consent decree was signed in 2006 and restoration activities to propagate and reintroduce listed mussel species are ongoing.