Madison County woman discovers hundreds of dead fish, foul odor at Flint River during Saturday fishing trip

WAFF 48's D'Quan Lee reporting
Published: Jul. 9, 2023 at 10:48 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 9, 2023 at 12:23 PM CDT

MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WAFF) - A Saturday family fishing trip between Neva Ertl and her son quickly became an eye-opening sight. They found that dozens of fish were dead in the Flint River.

The river also sits behind the Mt. Carmel Elementary School and a county landfill. There’s also a walking trail just south of the school entrance that you can take to the river.

WAFF took a trip for themselves and saw the floating bodies of fish across the riverbank. While they were there, they noticed the river didn’t carry that typical fresh-water smell. Instead, it comes with an odor of some kind of chemical that I can’t even place. And that’s something that concerns Ertl greatly.

“It smelled kind of like a... some type of chemical or maybe Clorox,” Ertl said. “We thought maybe it was coming from the water treatment plant, but it was really odd-smelling, so I couldn’t really place the smell.”

It was also alarming to her because the two had been fishing in the river for days before this, and noticed nothing wrong.

“We don’t know if it’s safe to get in the water,” she said. “And everyone else kayaks and plays in the water so I’m sure people are fishing and eating the fish, so it was a little concerning if we needed to let someone know if there was a spill that could cause some harm.”

She doesn’t want this to be an accusation against anyone, but rather making sure the community is aware of what’s going on and taking their own precautions.

“It’s nice if things like this are reported. Not to put blame or say someone did something or did some sort of vicious act,” she continued. “But just to make sure the community’s safe and we have a place we can take our kids and play and enjoy the outdoors.”

We spoke with two county commissioners today who said this could be caused by any number of things. However, they didn’t want to comment or speculate until they learned more.

We’re following up with the state department of environmental management to see what they have to say as well.

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