Fish kill hits Dirickson Creek

Another local waterway saw a massive fish kill this week, as thousands of peanut bunker were killed in Dirickson Creek, off Old Mill Bridge Road, near Selbyville.

Rich Donofrio told the Coastal Point that he’d spotted the fish kill on Friday, June 13, while riding through the area.

“I noticed all these birds diving on the west side of the Diricksons Creek bridge, and I looked down and saw all these little dead things in the water — dead peanut bunker, thousands of them,” he said.

Donofrio said the mass of dead fish was so immense, “It looked like a school of bluefish in there. The birds feeding on the dead fish and it smelled terrible.”

In light of the situation, Donofrio said he moved immediately to call the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s environmental emergency line, where he was eventually told that several prior reports of the incident had already been made.

Donofrio said DNREC employees told him the fish kill had been attributed to a deficiency in dissolved oxygen in the water — the same cause noted in the April 26 fish kill in Silver Lake in Rehoboth Beach, in which more than 1,000 white perch, while gizzard shad, largemouth bass and bluegill were killed.

The notation of a problem with dissolve oxygen didn’t satisfy Donofrio, though. He contacted friends who are members of the Surfride Foundation and arranged for a water sample to be taken at the site. Donofrio said local businessman Bill Winkler had tested the sample and found the presence of two toxic organisms in the water in a high concentration.

“What really gets me about this thing is that these organisms are capable of making people sick — not terribly sick, but sick,” Donofrio said. “There was an older woman who was kayaking right through it.”

The dead fish were not cleaned up — something that was done by the City of Rehoboth Beach in the Silver Lake incident. The Dirickson Creek/Old Mill Bridge area is in unincorporated Sussex County. Dead and rotting fish were still present at the site on Tuesday, June 17.

“It was so gross and so smelly, I wouldn’t get anywhere near it,” Donofrio added of his presence last Friday at the site, “but the county allows people to go into it.”

Winkler has previously expressed concerns about red-tide organisms in the area, citing their potential impact on human health.