Wildlife impact of massive November fire in north Georgia revealed

Staff Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press Sep 23, 2010 - The Chattooga River is near the area where Theresa Parker's remains were found. Parker's estranged husband, Sam Parker, is currently serving a life sentence for her 2007 murder.
photo Staff Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press Sep 23, 2010 - The Chattooga River

Fish kill from the November Barwick Mills plant fire:

Creek chub: 27Bluegill: 8Alabama hogsucker: 6Mosquitofish: 5Darter: 4Redeye Bass: 2Redbreast sunfish: 2Total: 54 - $23.45Source: Georgia Environmental Protection Division

Runoff from a massive November fire at a largely abandoned carpet mill in LaFayette, Ga., killed at least 54 fish and left the Chattooga River with a blue tint for several miles, according to a report from Georgia's Environmental Protection Division.

The EPD provided a copy of the 10-page fish kill investigation to the Times Free Press on Thursday in response to a request for the document.

The old Barwick Mills building erupted in flames on Nov. 14. The federal Environmental Protection Agency deemed air quality in the area unsafe in the hours after the fire, which took days to fully extinguish and caused uneasiness among many of the city's residents.

"The fish kill was most likely a result of some combination of chlorinated water, calcium carbonate, polypropylene and polyethylene flakes, and possibly other unknown compounds entering the Chattooga River from the fire extinguishing efforts at the Barwick Mills Plant," according to the report.

The report also acknowledged that the runoff's milky blue color partially obscured many of the dead fish in the creek.

"Therefore, our estimates of dead fish should be considered conservative," the report said.

Building owner Drennon Crutchfield and Co. was ordered to pay for the fish kill and investigative costs, which totaled $1,306.63.

EPD officials noted that the fish kill zone was less than a mile in length, but the Martindale Road crossing of the Chattooga River 7.2 miles downstream of the plant was the first crossing where no blue color was observed in the water, according to the report.

Cleanup at the site began at the first of the year and is expected to take six to nine months.

Contact staff writer David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249.