September 30, 2013 at 10:34 pm #508MikeKeymaster
Officials rule out illegal dumping or toxic spills as the reason
thousands of hatchery fingerlings died.
By Lukas Velush
EDMONDS – Water tests show a major toxic spill or illegal dumping
isn’t to blame for the deaths of 9,500 fingerling salmon at a
hatchery here last week, leading experts to believe polluted storm
water runoff is likely to blame.
Preliminary results confirm that gasoline, chemicals or other
poisonous material were not dumped into the hatchery on Willow Creek,
said Larry Altose, a spokesman for the state Department of Ecology.
Urban stream experts say it’s common for fish kills to occur when a
heavy downpour follows a long dry period, which is what happened in
the Willow Creek watershed recently.
“There’s a lot of rooftops, asphalt and driveways around Willow
Creek,” said Tom Murdoch, executive director of the Everett-based
He said nasty stuff such as fecal coliform, oils and other fish-
killing pollutants build up on such surfaces when there’s no rain to
wash them away.
When rain finally comes, it washes a higher concentration of the
toxins into urban streams that normally already are carrying high
amounts of pollutants.
The result is often bad news for fish.
“Young salmon in hatcheries like this are like canaries in a mine,”
Murdoch said, saying that all of the urban streams in southwest
Snohomish County have pollution problems. “When those guys go belly
up, you’ve got problems.”
A half-dozen cutthroat trout also were killed, a major blow for tiny
Willow Creek, which was just seeing the species start to rebound,
said Walt Thompson, manager of the hatchery.
About 500 hatchery salmon survived, but those won’t be released into
open waters for several weeks to make sure they have a good chance of
Each year the hatchery gets about 80,000 salmon eggs from the
Issaquah salmon hatchery, Thompson said. Once they hatch and grow big
enough, the salmon gradually are released into streams feeding into
The last 10,000 were being held back so kids could see them as part
of the Edmonds Waterfront Festival running Thursday through Sunday.
“We normally have an open house,” Thompson said, adding that it’s an
opportunity for kids to learn about salmon.
That education day is in danger of not happening, because there are
only 500 salmon and because the truckload of trout normally brought
in for them to fish won’t likely arrive because the water may not be
The hatchery’s Deer Creek name stuck even though its on Willow Creek,
a problem identified after the name had taken hold, Thompson said.
Laebugten Salmon Chapter of Trout Unlimited operates the hatchery.
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