Sussex County Delaware

Rare, Toxic
Found in Bald Creek

Inland Bays ...

May Have Contributed
to Summer Fish Kills

A rare microorganism that could have been a contributing factor in this summer's rash of fish kills has been found in water samples taken from Bald Creek, a tributary of Rehoboth Bay, according to Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control officials.

Chattonella Verruculosa, previously associated with red tides, has been found in the creek in water samples collected by the Delaware Chapter of the Surfrider's Foundation. Other samples collected by DNREC and tested by the Florida Marine Research Institute did not find the microorganism.

The microorganism has caused water discoloration and fish kills in other parts of the world, including the killing of 350 tons of salmon in Norway in 1998.

Chattonella verruculosa has also been known to cause human health symptoms such as upper respiratory irritation, watery eyes, and itching skin. DNREC says anyone experiencing these symptoms should call the Division of Public Health at 302-739-5617.

DNREC officials have been told by scientists that this is the first time the microorganism has been found this far north in the United States and the first time scientists have concluded it to be toxic.

After the results from the Toxicological Center at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, DNREC officials said they will immediately begin collecting water and shellfish for further testing.

DNREC will also send previously collected and preserved samples to laboratories to determine if the microorganism is present.

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