Petition seeks replacement of dead fish

MOUNTVILLE, Pa (WHTM) — An avid Pennsylvania angler has launched a petition in response to a recent ‘fish kill’ on the Susquehanna River.

Justin Jones says he and other local fisherman were devastated when they learned of the estimated 1,200 fish of various species that washed up dead in the waters south of Brunner Island last weekend. The Mountville resident describes the location as one of his “favorite fishing spots.”

“There were carp, catfish, shad, smallmouth bass,” says Jones.

The fish are being blamed on a system ‘glitch’ at the power plant operated by Talen Energy on Brunner Island, in York County. In the early morning hours of last Saturday, a large discharge of colder-than-usual water gushed from the plant into the river, quickly lowering the water temperature enough to shock the fish. The portion of river is frequented by anglers in the late fall and winter, in particular, because the usual discharge from the plant keeps the water temperature warmer, conducive to holding more fish.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection says an investigation into the incident is ongoing, and a fine against Talen is likely forthcoming, but has not been determined. A spokesman says the process would first include providing the company with a notice of any violations, and an opportunity to respond. If a fine were imposed, or some settlement reached, the money collected goes into the ‘Clean Water Fund,’ a fund described as available for a wide range of waterway improvement projects across the state.

Jones believes at least some of the money collected from any fines imposed on Talen should be used specifically to support the affected section of river. His petition, which has already attracted more than 500 signatures, proposes “higher fines and penalties on power plants and other manufacturers who contaminate the river by way of chemical, thermal, or substances that would pose danger to aquatic wildlife.” He also wants the money to go towards replenishing the population of fish that were killed, through stocking efforts.

“As fishermen, we pay for the privilege to fish,” he says. “If those fish are dying, we don’t have the ability to catch those fish. So economically, that’s a really poor return on an investment.”

Jones’ idea may not be too far fetched. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission confirms that many other fish kill incidents in the past across the state have resulted in civil lawsuits or settlements, in which the violator has agreed to pay reparations for the fish that were killed as a result of their actions, usually pollution of a waterway. In some instances, that could mean a direct restocking of fish where there was a loss. PFBC did not comment directly about the fish kill at Brunner Island.

Jones, who addressed his petition to PA State Representatives Keith Gillespie and Ted Harhai, chairmen of the PA House Game and Fisheries Committee, hopes it’s a conversation starter. Gillespie confirms that he is aware of the petition, and welcomes input from local sportsmen. His office did not indicate whether Jones’ proposals within the petition would be taken under consideration.

“It’s how can we, the fishing community (help),” says Jones. “Because we have volunteers that say, hey, we’ll go to Brunner Island. If they buy the fish, we’ll stock it. We volunteer. And that’s something you’re going to get statewide. We’re some of the best sportsmen in the country.”

To view or sign the petition, click here.

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