Fish kill raises a stink on Pearl River

Published: Aug. 19, 2011 at 12:27 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 25, 2011 at 8:20 AM CDT
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ST. TAMMANY PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Things are looking better on the Pearl River, but the smell is just rotten. St. Tammany fishermen are helping clean up the fish kill there.

However, one councilman said the cleanup may not solve the problem.

"As you can see, this is an environmental mess," said St. Tammany Councilman Gene Bellisario.

A paper mill in Bogalusa admitted a spill there on Saturday caused thousands of dead fish to float down river.

The stench of the fish stew brewing in West Pearl River is anything but appetizing.  Even the most experienced fishermen held their noses at the scene.

"Pretty bad," said one fisherman. "I had to put a mask on soon as I got out here."

If the smell doesn't get you, the sight of bloated, floating fish might.

"Can't bring tourists from other states and countries through Porter River while this is still here," said Bellisario. "Come back with a bad taste in their mouth and tell people negative things."

The Pearl River and Porter River are where people like Keith Demoran make their living.

"We hunt and fish this river about 20 years now," said Demoran.

But right now, he and hundreds of others are being paid to help clean up instead of cast. Fishermen must be cleared before they can head into the river. Armed with rakes, they scoop up carcasses and collect them in buckets to carry back to the dock.

While Bellisario stated things are better, sinking fish is another problem that has turned up.

"It's going to take oxygen out of this river. How do we get those fish up without doing anything worse than what's already been done?" he questioned.

He said the extent of this fish kill, impacting the economy and livelihoods, is possibly one of the worst he's seen.

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