Harmful algal bloom may be cause of fish die off at Bully Creek Reservoir

Dead fish line the shores of Bully Creek reservoir on Friday, July 23. (AUSTIN JOHNSON/The Enterprise)

VALE – Hundreds of dead fish have washed ashore at Bully Creek Reservoir as a result of what officials say appears to be the presence of harmful toxic bloom.

“There is a fish kill going on out at the reservoir, I don’t know what it’s from. It could be an algae bloom, which it appears to be, but that’s not my job to determine that,” said Dave Banks, fish biologist in Ontario for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

While testing will be required to verify algal bloom and harmful toxins, Laura Gleim, public affairs specialist at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, said the safest course of action is to stay out of the water.

“You want to keep your mouth and hands away from the water. Kids and pets are highly at risk of cytotoxins. If you suspect algal blooms, just keep children and pets away from the water,” said Gleim, adding that it is still safe to fish. 

While the stench of hundreds of rotting fish may have been an indication to stay away from the water, Mishelle McCormick, Bully Creek Park caretaker, said no state agencies had contacted her office to alert them that the water may be hazardous. 

McCormick said she contacted the state Department of Fish and Wildlife last week after campers noticed dead fish washing ashore. Department employees came to the reservoir July 20 and 21 to test the fish and water but McCormick said she hasn’t heard anything from them since. 

“I have a full campground this weekend and they are calling me and I have no answers. I get the concern. I have grandchildren, kids, pets, I don’t know personally if I’d take the chance of going in the water,” McCormick said Friday. 

Late Friday afternoon, McCormick said she still hadn’t heard from Banks, or the Oregon Health Authority. 

Banks said he contacted to state health officials to inform them of the situation. 

McCormick said she was going to write up her own signs to advise visitors of the potential danger. 

Jonathan Modie, Oregon Health Department spokesperson ,said the department will wait for test results before posting cyanotoxin advisories but people are their own best judges when deciding to go in the water. 

“The fact we have a bunch of dead fish washing onto the banks of this reservoir is cause for some concern,” Modie said. “We want people to be safe and use caution when going in the water.”

News tip? Contact reporter Joey Cappelletti at [email protected].


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