After a sewage leak caused by Hurricane Michael, a dead fish floats on the Apalachicola River in Apalachicola, Florida, U.S., 18 October 2018. Terray Sylvester / REUTERS

By Terray Sylvester
18 October 2018

APALACHICOLA, Florida (Reuters) – A sewage spill from a Florida wastewater plant during Hurricane Michael into a river feeding environmentally fragile Apalachicola Bay is suspected of causing mass fish kills downstream, state officials said on Thursday.

Experts say the discharge of 80,000 gallons of partially treated sewage into the Apalachicola River marks the latest blow to a once-productive estuary struggling to recover from an earlier collapse of its oyster and fishing industry.

The discharge came from a sewage plant in Wewahitchka, about 80 miles east of Tallahassee.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Shannon Hartsfield, a fourth-generation oysterman who is head of the Franklin County Seafood Workers Association, of the spill.

Hartsfield told Reuters he had seen thousands of dead fish in the river about 20 miles downstream from the site of the spill.

On the waterfront in the town of Apalachicola, at the mouth of the river, the stench of sewage in the air was strong on Thursday.

Apalachicola Bay and the estuary system surrounding it once produced 10 percent of the U.S. oyster catch and 90 percent of Florida’s harvest, along with abundant harvests of shrimp, crab and fish.

Michael Dasher, a fishing boat captain, said he first noticed sewage in the bay late Wednesday afternoon.

“It was horrible down here. You couldn’t hardly breathe,” he told Reuters. “It smells like pure crap.” […]

A spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Protection, Dee Ann Miller, said power and potable water to the town of Wewahitchka have since been restored and the spill has ceased.

“There’s going to be physical damage to the marsh habitat, sea-grass habitat, all the foundation habitats that are needed for the bay,” he said. [more]

Sewage spill from Hurricane Michael suspected in Florida fish kills

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