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'They're literally suffocating': Group says runoff from fighting junkyard fire leave hundreds of fish dead

A massive fire at an Atlanta junkyard fire earlier this week did not injure any people, but wound up leaving unexpected victims nearby.

ATLANTA — A junkyard fire earlier this week caused runoff into a nearby tributary that’s left hundreds of fish dead, according to a local environmental advocacy group.

The Chattahoochee Riverkeeper group posted on Facebook on Tuesday that the fire had resulted in a “massive fish kill” in the waterway off Proctor Creek, which itself feeds into the Chattahoochee River a few miles away.

The fire broke out on Monday and burned for hours at a junkyard in west Atlanta, on Regina Drive off Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway.

RELATED: West Atlanta fire sends visible plumes of smoke into the air

A post to the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper Facebook page showed the mucked up body of water and an environmentalist describing how “we are seeing just hundreds of dead fish everywhere.”

“Lots of foams and chemicals that washed this way made its way into this creek,” he says. “Not only did we have all of that water and the foam but this was a junkyard that was burning and all the metals and contaminants from burning cars and other things got washed into this creek.”

Before the runoff arrived, the environmentalist said, the creek had been clear, with “lots of healthy fish swimming around.”

Satellite images show how the tributary snakes out of the back of the junkyard where the fire occurred, at MetalMax Recycling.

Chattahoochee Riverkeeper attributed the fish deaths to a lack of oxygen, caused by all the runoff.

“The slug of pollution came through and these chemicals kind of reacted with the environment and what we’re seeing now is that the oxygen levels here have dropped to a level that really nothing can survive in this creek anymore,” the environmentalist said in the video.

He said testing showed oxy levels under one milligram per liter, when five is generally considered healthy.

“It’s just not an environment that these fish can survive in, and they’re literally suffocating,” he said.

In a statement, Atlanta Fire Rescue said it had used thousands of gallons of water to put out the fire in the 25-foot-tall pile of scrap.

“We also made a special request for our industrial foam pumper unit to respond to the location due to the deep seated fire and burning flammable liquids, oils, and other contaminants associated with car and metal recycling,” the statement said. “The foam used by Atlanta Fire Rescue for firefighting purposes has been approved by the NFPA and, at the concentration levels used, is biodegradable and non-toxic. We do not believe that the foam used to extinguish the fire contributed in any way to fish being killed in the area.”

The Chattahoochee Riverkeeper group did not indicate it believes the fish were poisoned.

The environmentalist in the Facebook video did say he understood the fire department could not control how the runoff affected the local ecosystem.

“It really is an unfortunate situation, where of course we have to put out the fire, of course we need water, we need to be able to get that fire out, for air quality control and everything for the local neighborhoods,” he said.

It is not currently clear how many fish have died. The group says it will be documenting the effects of the pollution with local and state environmental agencies.


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