Extent and cause of kill not yet known

Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 at 04:53 PM.

“They seem to be more sensitive to environmental changes,” Paxson said. “They are a bit fragile. The estuarine environment is very stressful for any type of aquatic life.”

Paxson said that water samples from Blake and fellow state environmental specialist Burt Simons will be analyzed for phosphorus, nitrogen, nitrates, phosphates, chlorophyll A and basically the suite of algal bloom samples.

As of yet, the cause of the kill and the exact number of fish affected is not known.

“It’s not uncommon to have fish kills this time of year or any time during the summer,” Paxson said. “Typically this time of year we get blooms in the surface waters because it is so warm and we also see a salt wedge that comes in from the sound that’s common that causes a stratification in the water column.

“You have fresh water on the top and salt water on the bottom. That’s very typical of an estuarine environment where the river meets the sea. The stratification in the water column slows down the natural diffusion of oxygen from the surface waters to the bottom waters, because salt water is heavier than fresh water.”

Paxson said that she was on the Neuse River from Union Point to Oriental on Monday and conducted tests for pH (alkalinity), dissolved oxygen and salinity.

“There is indication that the dissolved oxygen in the water has improved since two months ago,” Paxson said. “When you have prolonged low dissolved oxygen you call it chronic hypoxia, and that’s when you know at some point in time there’s going to be a school of fish that’s going to get caught in it.”

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