Another month, another fish kill in the Peconic River

Dead fish washed ashore at the Riverhead Yacht Club. (Courtesy photo)
Dead fish washed ashore at the Riverhead Yacht Club. (Courtesy photo)

Word of thousands of dead fish washing up on local shores might seem like old news at this point, but another drop in oxygen levels in local waters, coupled with a migration of bunker up the Peconic River resulted in yet another, separate fish kill over the weekend.

Though not as big as one that occurred last month, thousands more bunker have washed ashore along the Peconic River near the Route 105 bridge.

Data provided by the U.S. Geological Survey — which has a station at the Route 105 bridge — show that algae levels spiked on Saturday, while oxygen levels fell once again to zero. As schools of menhaden — the scientific name for bunker — made their way through the bay and up the river, the result was thousands of fish gasping for air that, once again, wasn’t there.

“Looking at the data, this just reinforces what we saw the first time around,” said Dr. Christopher Gobler of Stony Brook University’s School for Atmospheric Sciences. “That is, we have a confluence of events. First, the fish have to be there. Then there has to be something that pushed the oxygen levels down even lower.Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 2.47.17 PM

Terry Hulse, who lives on the Peconic River near the Riverhead Yacht Club, said on Monday morning that he started seeing the bunker swimming up river on Saturday, during the day.

“I said, ‘Oh good, the river is getting better,'” he said. “But by Saturday night, they were dead and floating.”

The Town of Riverhead received calls about the fish kill this morning and officials are currently investigating, once again, what to do with the fish. Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski said no complaints had been filed to his office by about noon today.

According to Allison Branco, executive director with the Peconic Estuary Program, the recurrence at this point seems to be nothing more than a repeat of what happened last time — except, as Dr. Gobler pointed out, not quite as big in numbers.

“I think it’s pretty much all the same problems we saw in the last couple of weeks,” Ms. Branco said. “The fish started to move, and the algae spiked.”

Mr. Krupski said he had heard last Wednesday that bunker were starting to move and collect in the area once again.

Last month’s fish kill has cast the light on the health of local waterways — namely, sources that are taking oxygen from the water itself for organizations inside of it. Nitrogen is considered the main culprit, and nitrogen seeping into waters is roundly considered the result of two main factors: ineffective waste treatment systems (specifically, outdated cesspools and septic tanks) and fertilizers.

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Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Mr. Hulse lives near the Moose Lodge. He lives on River Road, near the Yacht Club.