A Kay County resident says he received ulcers after touching water from the Salt Fork River, which has had eight fish kills in four years.

Aaron Byrd / OETA

Source Eludes Investigators as Another Fish-Kill is Reported on Salt Fork River

  • Joe Wertz

A late-August fish-kill is the second die-off reported in the span of a month on the Salt Fork River in north-central Oklahoma.

Authorities were investigating the most recent fish-kill, reported on Aug. 25, as an analysis on water samples taken during the July fish-kill was returned from the state laboratory. The July samples showed elevated levels of aluminium, iron and manganese, says Skylar McElhaney, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.

“No source for these elevated levels was identified, and it is not clear that these metals are the cause of the fish kill,” McElhaney writes in an email to StateImpact.

The second die-off wasn’t caused by the first, OETA’s Bob Sands reports.

“This is a completely different kill compared to a month ago,” Kay County Game Warden Spencer Grace tells OETA.  “This time the kill has moved further east. It’s even moved past the confluence of the Salt Fork and the Arkansas [River], and down into the Arkansas roughly two miles.”

This is the Salt Fork’s eighth fish-kill in four years, Sands reports. The manner in which the fish — mostly catfish and other large bottom feeders — died, appears similar to a large-scale die-off reported last summer.

Earlier this month, officials with the Department of Wildlife Conservation told OETA that wastewater from nearby disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry were likely the only source of the high salt levels recorded after the July fish-kill, but DEQ says the water analysis isn’t conclusive.

The most-recent fish-kill appears to be a bigger “health threat” to humans, OETA reports. Nearby residents have reported ulcers and infections, and Game Warden Grace has warned locals to stay out of the river and avoid eating its fish.