Wildlife Experts Concerned By Contaminated Floodwaters

Friday, July 6th 2007, 8:06 pm
By: News On 6

Folks in Coffeyville are concerned about the contaminated floodwaters. Thursday night hundreds of residents came to what ended up being an emotional town hall meeting to find out the status of clean-up efforts. Also a cause for concern, the environmental impact of the oil spill, the News On 6’s Heather Lewin reports the floodwaters that destroyed people's homes might actually have helped fish and wildlife escape the worst of the spill.

Biologists say the massive flooding somewhat diluted the thousands of gallons of crude oil that invaded the wildlife’s habitat, lessening the impact.

"The initial scare when you first hear about a spill is what got trapped in the immediate area," said Oklahoma Fisheries biologist Brent Gordon.

Oklahoma Fisheries biologist Brent Gordon says while some were unlucky it appears much of the area's fish and wildlife escaped. The spill, which began in Coffeyville, leaked into the Verdigris River and now may be seeping into Lake Oologah. Surveying the scene Thursday, Gordon says he didn't see masses of dead fish like one might expect, but still there are signs of poisoning.

"Some of the fish are attracted to the oil because they feed on things at the top of the surface, so certain things get caught, so they'll go ahead and feed on that, they'll get the oil sheen on them and digest it and then the birds of course see the fish, so then they'll hit it and the birds will get covered in oil," Gordon said.

Gordon is even more concerned about the damage you don't see, like the long term effects on the lake downstream.

"The bigger fish are gonna kind of move out of the area, but the smaller and the catfish are spawning right now so those eggs are gonna get covered and probably won't hatch," said Gordon.

He says those that have hatched won't survive the toxins, so it could wipe out a year's worth of fish.

Early estimates put the spill at about 42,000 gallons. To help you visualize it that's the size of an average city swimming pool full of oil.

Biologists say it could take two to three years to see the full environmental impact of the spill.

Watch the video: Fish And Wildlife Population Threatened By Oil Spill

For more flooding information, check out our STORM ZONE web page.