Local News

Woes From Last Winter's Flooding Aren't Over Yet

Posted April 30, 1998

— Nutrients carried away during this spring's flooding may bring death to North Carolina's rivers this summer. Pfiesteria could once again blossom in the warm waters rich with fertilizers.

Members of the state's Neuse River Rapid Response team say nutrients picked up by floodwaters could lead to a high number of fish kills this summer.

Chris Roessler is with the response team. He says weather conditions could bring on another bout with pfiesteria.

"If we get a hot, calm, dry summer we'll see the estuary stratify," says Roessler. "And that brings a lot of problems with oxygen and other kinds of nuisance algae."

One of those nuisance algae is pfiesteria piscida, the organism that killed more than 1 million fish three years ago, and is suspected of making some people sick. It thrives in nutrient rich, salty water.

Team member Dawn Davis says the river looks good now, but could get salty later.

"The river's very fresh right now," says Davis. "With all the rain so there's not a lot of salt. So, that's helping things right now, but when it gets hotter, the salt's going to start moving in."

Last summer was quiet along the Neuse, but team members still answered around 80 calls from people concerned about fish kills or fish with sores. With the right combination of hot weather and nutrient filled waters, Roessler says this could be a banner summer for fish kills.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell that with twice the normal precipitation, you're going to have a lot of nutrients in the estuary," says Roessler.

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