Dead fish cleanup begins in Pearl River County

PEARL RIVER COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A week after a major fish kill along the Pearl River, workers in Mississippi began the tedious task of cleaning up the nasty mess.

As we first reported last Saturday, hundreds of thousands of dead fish and other marine life began to float to the surface after authorities say a paper mill in Bogalusa, Louisiana released a chemical in the water.

"Probably a hundred thousand fish. And they have deteriorated, of course. And we've got a nasty mess," said Pearl River County Emergency Management Director Danny Manley.

So far, 150 Pearl River County residents with 44 boats have been hired to hit the East Pearl River at Walk-ah Bluff to start cleaning up the dead marine life.

"There are thousands upon thousands. They're stacked up on top of each other," Pearl River County Planning Director Edward Pinero said. "The big concern is the natural resources that we've lost, as well as the aquatic species. We're losing fish, turtles. We've lost a number of endangered Gulf Sturgeon. And we're not sure that the death and devastation has stopped yet."

Authorities say Temple-Inland Paper Mill in Boglousa, Louisiana is responsible for the fish kill.

"They released a statement, I believe they said it was black liquor. It's a by product of the process of the plant. It's not very toxic, but it really depletes the oxygen, which is deadly to fish," Manley said. "I equate it kind of like a nuclear meltdown. Nuclear plants are great, but if they melt down, then you've got a problem."

Manley estimates it will take seven to ten days to clean up the mess.

"They're going to bag them and then they'll take them to be destroyed, since they have the chemicals in them and on them," said Pinero.

"It's going to be hard and nasty work, but our goal is to get this river back as clean as it's ever been," explained Manley.

He also said MEMA, the DEQ, and many other state and federal agencies are providing much needed assistance. He estimates the massive clean up effort would cost about a million dollars, with the paper mill responsible for footing the bill.

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