Indiana's White River Rebounding After Fish Kill

The White River in Indiana has received its cleanest bill of health since a massive fish kill in 1999.


During a fall 2011 fish survey, Indiana Department of Natural Resources biologists collected 7,128 fish from 57 species at sample stations between Anderson and Indianapolis - the greatest number of species collected since the fish kill, and further proof that the river has recovered.

In December 1999, an estimated 4.3 million fish died as a result of a fish kill that started at the outfall of the Anderson Waste Water Treatment Plant and stretched 55 miles into downtown Indianapolis. The kill was traced to an industrial discharge from the Guide Corporation in Anderson.

A $6 million settlement overseen by the DNR, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was used to restore the river. A 10-person citizen's advisory committee assisted the agencies.


"The fish community is healthy, and an increase in darters and minnows is an indication of improving habitat and water quality" said Sandra Clark-Kolaks, a DNR fisheries research biologist.

Game species have also recovered since 1999, providing ample angling opportunities. Black bass, rock bass, saugers, crappies, and channel catfish were collected in plentiful numbers.

In addition to fish, the White River is home to an abundance of other wildlife. During the fish survey, biologists noted bald eagles, great blue herons, foxes, and white-tailed deer.


"Thanks to fish stockings, monitoring, habitat protection, public access improvements and public awareness, the White River is an excellent recreational opportunity for Indianapolis residents," said Bill James, DNR chief of fisheries.

James says groups like Friends of the White River and the White River Watchers have also had a major impact on the White River by organizing annual trash cleanups and improving public access.

For other environmentally-related news, click here.

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