Friday, December 19, 2008

OK.........the pond

Yes, yes. I know. I missed posting yesterday. That's because the last couple of days around here have been a bit nutty. Remember Mr. Bass?? Well, unfortunately the other Mr. Bass (or maybe Mrs. Bass) joined him in his untimely demise. Then, we started noticing a bunch of smaller dead fish in the pond. So, we started panicking and getting really pissed.

As you know, we recently had a bunch of work done to restore our pond and get it all cleaned out. Taking care of the environment around us is a huge issue for Wayne and I and one that we try to work on all the time. So, to see all of our fish dying was more than a little concerning to us. Especially since we have herons, kingfishers, ducks, geese, etc drinking and eating fish out of our pond all the time. Not to mention that our pets drink from the pond and play in it quite regularly (even the cats!).

Anyhow, this story is a little involved so don't let me bore you. Feel free to come back for more fun and perky stuff next week. But here's what happened:

We had a HUGE amount of rain on Sunday - I think we ended up with about 3 inches in under 6 hours or something crazy like that. And then it just kept raining for days. Our pond is fed by a creek that comes down the mountain in the back of our house. Of course, when it rains the creek picks up just about all the run-off water from this side of the mountain and the first place it dumps is - you guessed it - our pond. Then more water goes to our neighbors pond, then to the pond across the street then down the street to more ponds down there (maybe I should draw a picture like the Yarn Harlot?).

So, we were extreemly concerned that some toxic substance was in the run-off water that had washed into our pond. We thought maybe someone had a septic tank leak or had a lot of fertilizer on their lawn or was draining their gray water directly into their yard or something. We called everyone we knew on the mountain, the public health department, the EPA, EPD, US fish and wildlife, the UGA extension office, the local newspaper, the tv station - basically everyone we could think of. And of course, they were all pointing us to each other and no one seemed to be able to help us - which was REALLY ticking us off.

Not only was our pond in trouble, but of course our pond is not the only house, pond or groudwater affected by this creek. We ended up doing our own investigation. We went up the mountain, pulled off the road, followed the creek, took a bunch of pictures, drove around and looked at houses to see if we could see anything out of place and just were generally nosey. Sometimes that master's degree that I have in Environmental Health actually does pay off - see dad!!!!!!!

Anyway, we took some pictures and finally did get someone from the EPD to come out and look at our pond and go up on the mountain to also poke around. We got some of the residents up on the mountain concerned, which was good, so hopefully this will be on the topic of their next homeowner's association meeting - just reminders about getting septic tanks checked, be conscious of what you put on your yard, chemicals, fertilizers, soaps, etc.

But, in the end we really came up with zilch. I talked to the guy at the UGA extension office today and this was his theory - which is plausible and actually makes me feel much better than the possibility of a toxin - even though it is still a sucky situation.

He said that sometimes when there is a huge amount of rain all funneled into a pond at the same time (which there definitely was) it can cause a pond to "turnover" which literally means that all of the water that is pouring into the pond is colder, sinks to the bottom and pushes the water at the bottom of the pond up to the top. This causes problems with water temperatures and with dissolved oxygen in the water. He says this is really the most likely scenario in our situation because the big fish died first (they have the highest oxygen requirements due to their size). He said if it was due to a toxin in the water you would usually see the small fish die first. Add to that the fact that our pond was CRYSTAL clear before the rain, which was because we had just finished filling it up. So, the pond hadn't had time to go back to it's "normal" state of normal microbes, bacteria, etc. So all of that together created an extreme stress environment for the fish and an oxygen depletion problem.

Whew! That's a mouthful. But, I honestly think it is the most plausible explanation for what happened. Especially since there are still plenty of healthy fish in the pond. I would think if it was something toxic - they would have all been dead. I spent today netting a bunch of dead fish out of our pond - very sad...........

The lesson we have learned from all of this is to cut off the inflow for our pond during a lot of rain. We are very fortunate that our pond is set up to allow us to do this since it is fed from the creek to the pond by a 6" PVC pipe. Our neighbor, unfortunately, does not have this option as the creek flows directly into her pond.

Also, the other thing that has happened is that Wayne and I have decided to start an environmental organization here in Blue Ridge - SEE DAD!!! Again, I'm going to use the degree! But, we have named it Blue Ridge Area Environmental Action (BRAEA) and Wayne has already started the website -

We started a civic club in our neighborhood in Tucker (complete with website and all the fixin's) and it was a really great venue for sharing information, getting stuff sold/bought, promoting our neighbors businesses, crime alerts and just generally bringing us together and getting to know each other (I reccomend doing it!). We want to do the same thing here with a focus on environmental education and alerts. Also, we will get involved in local legislation as it relates to the environment. But, more about that later. You can check out the rudimentary site though if ya like.

I know - a long story. Thanks for reading if you are still here.

BTW - I started another moebius! Shhhhhhhhh - it's a gift - think I can finish it by Christmas????? We'll see.


LittleWit said...

I am glad you have found a plausible explanation. I know where my parents house is the dam is being repaired and they dropped the lake by 2 ft or so. Then unfortunately the area suffered from a drought the same year and they had lots of problems with the fish dying from the water being too hot. I hope you are able to restore your pond to full health.

LittleWit said...

20 ft or so not 2 ft. Sigh I can't type today.

Nacole said...

I am sorry to hear that you lost more fish! :(

But I am glad that you figured out the cause and that you now know what to do to prevent it next time.

Good for you for starting BRAEA! That sounds like a wonderful thing to have going.

I know this isn't much but I did a full report/presentation about Water Conservation back in 4-H for regional.(won 1st place!) I learned a lot from that and still use it now days! I am the house water marshal! lol

Turtle said...

well as frustrating as it is it seems to be good that nothing toxic was seeping down the mtn to you....lesson learned i guess. good luck with your next project!

Anonymous said...

I am relieved to know the fish was not poisoned!!

Farmer Jen said...

Sorry more fish have died and that the whole situation caused such stressn for you. It's really good what you found out about the pond dynamics and that you are now starting your community organization. I will look at your new website.

evilsciencechick said...

Wow, you're like...SCIENCEY DETECTIVES! way to go! I hope your pond gets better soon!

Jane said...

It's good that you got it figured out, and happily it wasn't toxins. And good for you for being so proactive, too.

theyarnwhisperer said...

sorry about the fishies. We had a fishie in our tank die and a snail bit it but it had nothing to do with toxins or rain.
So, since you'll are starting your own orginazation and getting involved with legislation does this mean that Mr. Man will be running against Obama in the next election?
Oh... speaking of Obama.... Steven's company may get to work one of the inaugaral parties that Barack will be attending!