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Fish in Georgia river rebounding after fish kill

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Despite the Ogeechee River fish population making a comeback after a massive fish kill in 2011, some anglers say they're not rushing to eat them just yet.

An estimated 39,000 fish died in 2011 near a King America Finishing textile outfall pipe that was linked to a fire retardant processing line discharging into the river without a permit. Investigators said pollution was likely among several factors that killed the fish.

The Environmental Protection Division ordered the company to spend $1 million on projects related to the river, but the order was voided in 2012 because of lack of public notice.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources restocked the river with about 275,000 redbreast, 100,000 largemouth and about 150,000 bluegill, The Savannah Morning News reported.

There are about five times as many larger redbreast sunfish in the river as there were last year, senior fisheries biologist Joel Fleming said.

Despite that, some anglers say they're avoiding fishing or swimming in the river because of concerns over lingering pollution.

"I don't swim in the river or eat fish out of it," Bulloch resident and fisherman Tommy Pope told the newspaper. Catching fish may be easier, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's comfortable with eating them yet, Pope said.

"It's just not the same," he said. "I ate them all my life before the fish kill. If I had known they were dumping formaldehyde and other toxins in the river for five years before the fish kill I wouldn't have been eating them then, either."

Wayne Carney, of Effingham County, said he wonders if the water quality has improved at all since the fish kill.

"Can anybody guarantee me that poison's not gonna come down the river and kill the fish again without me knowing it until the fish are dead?"

Officials say anglers should consult the Georgia Environmental Protection Division's river-by-river fish ingestion guidelines to determine how many fish caught from the Ogeechee River they can eat.

The Environmental Protection Division tests for 43 pollutants — which doesn't include formaldehyde — and officials say mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls are found most often.

A federal lawsuit filed by the Ogeechee Riverkeeper against King America has not yet been resolved.

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Information from: Savannah Morning News, www.savannahnow.com

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