Fish deaths in Deer Valley: ‘It was just gross’
Jana Lee Corn, the owner of a dog-walking company called Happy Hounds, on Tuesday took four dogs to go swimming in a pond close to the Snow Park Lodge parking lots in Deer Valley.
Something in the pond attracted the attention of one of the dogs, a black Labrador, Corn said. It was a dead fish, and the dog started eating it, she said. Corn then saw that there were numerous dead fish floating on the water or on the shore. It smelled bad from the shore, she said. Corn quickly ordered the dogs out of the water.
"It’s gross. It was just gross. Dead fish," Corn said.
Corn and the dogs were at the pond a few days after Deer Valley Resort noticed that fish were dying. She took the dog to a veterinarian, who gave it an injection that forced it to vomit. The dog appeared to be OK Wednesday morning, she said.
The resort on Wednesday acknowledged that a couple hundred fish have died in the ponds in lower Deer Valley since last week. The deaths prompted an investigation into the cause.
The air at the shoreline of the pond continued to smell bad, and numerous dead fish were visible. Some of them were belly-up within inches of the shoreline, their white undersides easily seen against the dark water. Others were floating at or just under the surface toward the middle of the pond.
Emily Summers, a spokesperson for the resort, said all of the dead fish were less than four inches long.
The ponds are located outside the building that houses the Deer Valley Grocery ~ Café. The ponds are reservoirs that hold water for Deer Valley’s snowmaking system. Summers said it appears a lack of oxygen in the water caused the deaths, explaining that the hot weather and low water levels were likely factors.
She said Deer Valley turned on a pump to create a flow of water from the lower pond to the upper pond in response to the deaths. The majority of the dead fish were found in the upper pond, she said. Deer Valley also turned on an aerating system that puts oxygen into the water, Summers said.
The pump and aerating system are both part of the resort’s snowmaking apparatus.
City Hall, the Summit County Health Department and the state Health Department are involved in the investigation, Summers said.
Joan Card, who is City Hall’s environmental regulatory affairs manager, said state investigators with the Division of Water Quality found the temperature of the ponds was above 68 degrees Fahrenheit, which was high for a body of water at their elevation. She said the dissolved oxygen level — determined to be below five milligrams per liter — was low. A healthy dissolved oxygen level in a pond at their elevation is above five milligrams per liter, according to Card.
She said the state Division of Wildlife Resources found that 90 percent of the fish that died were chub and the rest were trout, adding that it appeared that only smaller fish perished.
"High temperature, low oxygen," Card said.
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