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Large numbers of dead fish found in eastern Ontario river

Monday, September 13th 2021, 10:40 am - Environment ministry investigating reports of dead fish near St-Eugène, Ont.

CBC: Some of the dead fish that St-Eugène, Ont., residents have found either floating in the water or stranded nearby. (Supplied) Some of the dead fish that St-Eugène, Ont., residents have found either floating in the water or stranded nearby. (Supplied/CBC News)

Ontario's environment ministry is investigating reports that large amounts of fish in one eastern Ontario river are mysteriously dying.

Residents of the village of St-Eugène, Ont., about 100 kilometres east of downtown Ottawa, say significant numbers of fish have either been found floating in the Rigaud River or stranded nearby.

The fish were first discovered after a local man noticed a pungent stench on Sept.1.

Christopher Brown, who has lived in the area since 1989, told Radio-Canada that the smell was similar to that of sewage or a septic tank.

It was so severe, he said, that he was unable to open his windows.

CBC: Christopher Brown lives in St-Eugène, Ont., and says he smelled a pungent odour coming from the Rigaud River on Sept. 1. Two days later, he noticed the first dead fish. (Denis Babin/Radio-Canada) Christopher Brown lives in St-Eugène, Ont., and says he smelled a pungent odour coming from the Rigaud River on Sept. 1. Two days later, he noticed the first dead fish. (Denis Babin/Radio-Canada)

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The following day, Brown said he called Ontario's Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, which dispatched a team to take samples from the river at the site.

Two days later, lifeless fish were floating on the surface of the water and around the river, Brown said.

"In 32 years, I have never seen this. It is a living river, but now it's dead," Brown told Radio-Canada in a French language interview.

Other people living in St-Eugène also observed dead fish in the river, including a fisherman who sent numerous photos to Radio-Canada.

The cause of the fish deaths has not yet been confirmed.

MINISTRY INVESTIGATING POSSIBLE SPILL

In a French-language statement Friday, the ministry said staff had visited the scene three times since the dead fish were reported.

The ministry said it would continue to investigate the cause of the deaths, the possibility some sort of spill had occurred, and any impacts on the Rigaud River and downstream sites.

The results of the analysis should be known within a week or two, the ministry said.

This article was originally published for CBC News. Contains files from Radio-Canada's Denis Babin.

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