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State probes fish kill in Wabash River in northeast Indiana

DECATUR, Ind. (AP) – Indiana health and wildlife officials have taken water samples from the Wabash River in northeastern Indiana to try to determine what has been killing fish there.

David Cage, on-scene coordinator for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s emergency response section, said Wednesday that on-site tests for ammonia nitrates, oxygen levels and pH levels are normal and have not contributed to the fish kill. The tests won’t reveal if pesticides or herbicides have entered the waterway. Results of those tests will not be available for up to two weeks, he said.

The river upstream from the Adams County community of Linn Grove, about 30 miles south of Fort Wayne, had a green cast, raising suspicions that algae bloom toxins could be responsible for the kill of an undetermined number of fish.

Cage said he could not rule out the possibility of an algae bloom.

The Decatur Daily Democrat reports that the recent death of a dog in Linn Grove has prompted state and county health officials to urge residents to avoid contact with the river until all test results are known. The dog’s owners have told investigators it frequently drank from the river.

“Is there a correlation between the algae bloom and what’s happening with the fish? We don’t know,” Gage said. “If it turns out to be toxic algae, it may not even be related to the dead fish. We simply need to do more research.”

While Cage was not ready to issue a public health warning against recreational activities in the Wabash River, he suggested residents avoid contact with the river water until it is deemed safe.

“Based on past experience, it’s probably not a good idea to get this stuff on you,” he said.