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Company apologizes for fish kill while officials scramble

PEARL RIVER — Paper producer Temple-Inland Inc. says it believes that a problem with its wastewater treatment facility at a Louisiana plant triggered a huge fish kill on the Pearl River.

Meanwhile, the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District (PRV) has temporarily increased the discharge from the Ross Barnett Reservoir to help the lower Pearl River recover.

In a statement issued today, Temple-Inland apologized “for the impact this issue at the mill has had on the Pearl River.” Temple-Inland said it is working to remove the dead fish and restore the river’s quality.

Temple-Inland said it shut down the plant immediately Saturday after tests showed it would exceed its allowable discharge into the river. The company said it immediately informed state environmental officials and began working to restore the river’s water quality.

A depleted oxygen level in the water is blamed for killing hundreds of thousands of fish.

After discussions with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), the PRV has increased the discharge to provide an increase of fresh water to help replenish oxygen in the Pearl River system and dilute remaining pollutants in the river. The discharge began last night, and the agencies estimate it will take several days for the water to reach the affected area.

“We are grateful to the PRV for their assistance to help ease this tragedy on the Pearl River. MDEQ staff will monitor the release of water as it progresses south using existing stream gauges, and we may take some physical flow measurements, as well. We are hopeful that we will see positive effects in the next few days,” said Trudy D. Fisher, MDEQ executive director.

MDEQ biologists, engineers, scientists, and emergency responders continue to actively monitor the fish kill that has killed hundreds of thousands of fish and mussels over a 35 to 40 mile stretch of the Pearl River from Bogalusa, La., downstream to the Mississippi Sound.  The kill has severely damaged fishing and other water-based recreation in this portion of the river and has affected several threatened and endangered species.

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