By Associated Press - Friday, September 11, 2020

LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) - Decaying plants pushed in by Hurricane Laura are the likely cause of stinky, bad water in two southwestern lakes, and a fish kill in one lake adds to the stench, state officials say.

“Its not dangerous. It just smells bad. It’s a real nuisance in some spots,” Department of Environmental Quality press secretary Greg Langley said Friday.

Water quality teams sent by Secretary Chuck Carr Brown were checking Lake Charles and Prien Lake on Friday, he said. And the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries checked the fish kill in Lake Charles.

Earlier DEQ assessments found that the storm surge Aug. 27 pushed in both dead plants and salt water, which killed some of the plants growing there. As they decay, oxygen levels go down. That in turn killed fish.

“Biologists found species such as Gulf menhaden, mullet, catfish, carp, Atlantic croaker, red drum, black drum, and others were present,” said Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Jack Montoucet.

Brown said, “The current situation will follow its natural course and dissipate as the tides flow in and out.” He said scientists will try to figure out how long that’s likely to take.

Brown said assessment teams are still working to locate any petroleum spills or leaks in the storm zone.

People shouldn’t assume that any sheen or dark material on water is from oil, he said.

Department environmental scientist David Greenwood said, “When that vegetative material decays, it releases substances that can look exactly like an oil sheen. But it’s not.”

He said scientists in the field use a “stick test” to tell the difference: “You drag a stick through it, breaking it into pieces. If the pieces don’t come back together immediately, then it’s not oil.”

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