The Environmental Protection Agency conducted its fifth fish kill at the Donna reservoir and canal on Thursday.
The agency’s goal was to get rid of fish that are possibly contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)chemicals.
“There is a probability of getting cancer from eating the fish, and we know that there is an issue with the systemic toxins which can affect the nervous circulatory system,” said EPA representative Rafael Casanova. “It can effect almost every system in the body”
A couple of advocate organizations including A Resource In Serving Equality, and the Texas Low-Income Housing Information Service are collaborating with EPA to conduct community outreach.
“This is really a short-term solution, but it is important because it takes the toxic material out of the lake and prevents people from eating it,” said TLIHIS Co-Director Josue Ramirez. “But it needs to be accompanied by outreach and engagement to the community so they can know this fish is toxic and its not good for you to eat it.”
Since the removal process began in 2008, EPA estimates they have killed and disposed of over 39,000 fish through an electromagnetic shocking process.
“The boats have these shocks on them and they put out an electromagnet field around the boat and any fish that are in that area are shocked and they pop up to the top and we have people with nets to pull them out,” said EPA representative Mike McAteer.
The fish are then sorted, and tested to see how they may affect human health. In the most recent investigation, reports led EPA to believe the siphon may be the source of the problem to years of contamination.
“The siphon is a concrete pipe that runs underneath the Arroyo Colorado and canal system,” Casanova said. “We think that the materials that they used to construct the siphon in 1928–we think it was constructed with materials that might have PCBs, or had.”
The EPA adds that the fish kill and removal process is only a temporary fix, and is working on a master plan to fix the siphon that could be causing the contamination.
The EPA will be conducting the fish kill and removal process into next week.