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Sick Fish Keeping State's River Watchers Busy

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BATH — Governor Hunt says North Carolina's rivers are safe -- despite Hurricane Floyd, waste spills and fish kills. Hunt toured the Pamlico River Friday with one of the state's two rapid response teams -- river watchers who say they are stretched thin by responsibility.

Bath resident Terry Stowe spent Friday fishing in Bath Creek. His baitfish, half of which were pocked with gaping sores, came from the same creek.

A few yards away, Governor Hunt hopped aboard a boat with the Pamlico River Rapid Response Team. The team was formed two years ago to determine the cause of fish kills and fish sores. The researchers now monitor the Pamlico for the aftereffects of Hurricane Floyd.

The rapid response teams have received a great deal of praise, but several people in the Division of Water Quality have privately confided that more teams are needed to patrol the waters.

"If we need more rapid response teams, I'd like to know about it. I had not heard that idea. Maybe it ought to be the case," Governor Hunt said.

People who fish in the river say the marine life will survive, noting that natural problems -- like the deadlypfiesteria bacteria-- are killing fish. They say nature created the problems and will solve them.

"When I was a kid -- let's say 30 years ago -- there were fish kills then," Stowe said.

Researchers and the Hunt Administration agree that may be true.

But in case there are other factors making our fish sick, a group of state scientists -- albeit a small one -- will continue patrolling troubled waters Down East.

The rapid response teams patrol two waterways -- the Tar-Pamlico River and the Neuse River. The state'sEnvironmental Management Commissionoversees the teams.


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