CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For all the inconvenience it caused, the recent Elk River chemical spill doesn't appear to have killed any fish.
I use the phrase "doesn't appear to have killed" because it's too early to know for certain.
Jeff Hansbarger, district fisheries biologist for the state Division of Natural Resources, has repeatedly surveyed the area downstream from the tank farm where the spill took place, and he hasn't found any dead or dying fish.
"I heard about the spill for the first time on [Jan. 9, the day it occurred]," Hansbarger said. "I was very concerned there might be a fish kill, so I drove down there [from Point Pleasant] and was looking around by dawn the next morning."
Hansbarger combed the Elk's banks for dead or distressed fish, but didn't see any.
"You could still smell the chemical pretty strongly, but other than that there was no evidence the spill had harmed any aquatic life," he said. "I came back [the day after that] and did another search, and I still didn't turn up anything."
Three days after the spill, Hansbarger and an assistant brought a boat and made a more comprehensive sweep of the lower Elk and the Kanawha River downstream from the mouth of the Elk. "We didn't find anything then, either," he said.
On Jan. 15, Hansbarger brought one of the DNR's electrofishing boats and surveyed the Elk from the spill site downstream.
"We found fish," he reported. "In fact, we caught a couple of muskies right below the spill site."