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Anne Arundel County

About 50,000 Atlantic menhaden and other fish found dead in Marley Creek near Glen Burnie after sewage spill

About 50,000 fish, mainly Atlantic menhaden, were found dead near the head waters of Marley Creek on Wednesday, according to a spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment.

At least eight other species were identified in the fish kill, which comes less than a week after a broken sewage pipe in Glen Burnie sent nearly 11,000 gallons of sewage into a Marley Creek tributary.

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MDE investigators believe the fish kill was a result of “anoxic bottom water intrusion,” said department spokesman Jay Apperson, which occurs when water devoid of oxygen rises to the surface — possibly during low tide — suffocating aquatic life.

Officials believe the June 2 sewage spill might have contributed to a phytoplankton bloom in the creek. These algae blooms can occur when a body of water is inundated with nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous, which are included in sewage, alongside its harmful bacteria. As the algae blooms decay, they starve the water of needed oxygen, creating dangerous conditions for marine life.

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Daniel Macleod, a 70-year-old Glen Burnie resident, said he was checking on his boat at his marina along Marley Creek Tuesday morning when he saw thousands of silvery fish floating dead in the canal. He took a few photos and reached out to the Department of Natural Resources, he said. By the time he returned a few hours later, the fish were gone. In all likelihood, they’d floated down the creek toward the Chesapeake Bay.

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A DNR spokesman said Wednesday the agency had no record of the kill. But Maryland Department of the Environment inspectors ended up catching the dead fish around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

When he spotted the floating fish, Macleod said his mind returned to his childhood in Glen Burnie, when Marley Creek had a reputation for poor water quality.

“When I was a kid, the only fish in Marley Creek were floating,” he said. “It was horrendous. It smelled terrible and looked worse.”

But the creek has seen improvements over the years, he said. Enough so that when he returned to live in the area after time away, he felt comfortable living beside it.

“To make that kind of progress and then dump you-know-what into it — it’s just discouraging,” he said.

It comes as sewage infrastructure in the Chesapeake Bay region is top-of-mind for many. In March, the state took charge of the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant in Dundalk — Maryland’s largest, following months of reports of excessive discharges of nutrients into the river.

Recent inspection reports have shown that the Patapsco Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is also run by Baltimore City’s Department of Public Works, is also dealing with continued maintenance issues, resulting in large exceedances of its nutrient pollution limit.


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