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    Rains 'drown' hundreds of fish

    City workers clean up the ponds around Jeffords and Duncan Streets. Wildlife officials say this is a natural phenomenon.

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published June 21, 2002

    CLEARWATER -- It's just a part of nature.

    But in a quiet residential setting with manicured lawns and azaleas, hundreds of dead fish bobbing at the surface of a small pond is a bit disturbing.

    City crews removed 60 bags of dead fish Thursday morning from a dense area of ponds around Jeffords and Duncan streets. In all, city public services director Gary Johnson said, crews have removed hundreds of fish during the past three days.

    "It's odd when you see it," Johnson said. The first fish popped up Tuesday, Johnson said, but most surfaced overnight Wednesday.

    Johnson was happy to find out the fish farewell wasn't a public crisis.

    Sam McKinney, a fisheries biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said the fish "drowned."

    He even chuckled.

    After intense rains, like the ones Clearwater had earlier this week, organic debris runs off into the pond, McKinney said. The debris then decomposes at the bottom of the pond, which steals oxygen from the water. Nature has a natural combatant to this phenomenon, but cloud cover prevents algae present in the pond from making more oxygen through photosynthesis.

    At night, the algae actually make things worse by buring oxygen in the water and releasing carbon dioxide.

    Strong winds also can stir the pond, releasing more organic material, grabbing up more of the valuable oxygen. When it happens, the fish die.

    McKinney said the event is very common. It doesn't mean the water's polluted, he said.

    "Everything is robbing the oxygen from the fish," said Joy Hill, of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

    "After a couple of days, they can't take it anymore. That's when you find them floating."

    Johnson said the city will continue to clean up dead fish on city land as quickly as possible.

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