The City Is Investigating Massive Fish Kill in a Southern Dallas Pond

Dallas Trinity Trails
A dead Buffalofish at West Bond in the Joppa Preserve.
Fisherman from the area have known the pond for decades. Tucked away in the Joppa Preserve in South Dallas, its official, government name is West Pond, but locals refer to it as Bad Leg Fred Lake after the man who once ran a small operation selling bait and supplies to anglers after the bass, crappie, perch, catfish and carp that filled the pond since it was first stocked decades ago by philanthropist and beer distributor Bill Barrett.

At least, those fish used to fill the pond. The author of Dallas Trinity Trails visited this weekend and found them all belly-up and decaying in the June sun. He writes:

I wonder what went wrong here. The pond here has never seen a fish kill according to the fishermen who have angled here back to the Bad Leg Fred era. In 2011 when Dallas saw a record drought the pond held full all summer. This spring the periodic rains every few days have turned the woods around the Trinity River green and lush, the kind of rain that allows aquatic life to flourish.

Clues to what might have caused the fish kill probably lie in the off-color of the water. The once green-blue water is now clear, stained a shade of light brown. It was a mass extinction event that killed all the fish, top to bottom, big to small. Surprised to see the larger carp die off. In the heat of the summers here, the carp are the very last fish species to die in the shallow water of drying lake beds. They can live in what amounts to a muddy pudding. To die in a large pond is a question that needs an answer.

Dallas Trinity Trails

Fish kills of the type at West Pond tend to happen overnight and are typically caused by oxygen depletion caused by overpopulation, agricultural and livestock runoff, or die-offs of oxygen-producing algae and aquatic plants. More rarely, the die-offs are caused by toxic substances in the water.

City of Dallas spokesman Frank Librio says the city was notified of the fish kill last week and that staff retrieved fish and checked water quality. He writes in an email that "The pond is incised, and has no defined inlet or discharge. ... Appears to be due to seasonal turnover and population stress (larger than optimal number of fish for pond size). Have notified Dallas County, TCEQ and Texas Parks and Wildlife."

The Dallas Trinity Trails author suspects natural causes, which doesn't make the loss of one of southern Dallas' best fishing holes any less of a shame.

"[T]he pond here has been a haven for anglers without the means of transportation to other larger bodies of water. Some take DART. Some hitchhike. Some walk. Some walk miles to get here," he writes. "I feel for those folks. Their refuge from the day to day grind has evaporated for the summer."

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Too bad this couldn't happen to South Dallas. 


A massive fish kill in a cesspool like way?  In other news, don't smoke in bed, and don't drive naked. More IMPORTANT stories to follow, like a story about a sportscar in a high school parking lot.   Is this Steve Blow or Jackie Floyd from the DMN?

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

I would walk around the pond looking for tire tracks.  The change from a turbid water to a clear water is an indicator that a substance with flocculant capabilities was added.  The color change is also an indicator of some chemical being introduced.  Waters in our area tend to be cloudy due to suspended silt and clay particles.  A flocculant will cause these small silt and clay particles to agglomerate and then settle out.

Additionally, any substance added does not necessarily need to be toxic in order to cause the fish kill.  It could also be due to a substance with a very high Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD).  A substance with a high COD will remove the dissolved oxygen from the water and the fish will then suffocate.

Also look to see if there are any frogs or turtles present.  If they are alive in the water, this would tend to rule out a toxin and point to a high COD substance.


@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul That's quite an interesting conspiracy you've weaved, although the coagulant stuff is nonsense.  It would take a massive amount of a incredibly highly biodegradable chemical to cause the acute toxicity observed, especially with the fish mentioned, which aren't particularly sensitive species.  Doubtful by any stretch of the imagination but I guess it's possible that some vindictive fisherman, run off from the pond because he was teased over his small fish, who works for a chemical supply company, could grab a few drums of insidious chemical X, and during a moonless night go to the pond and pour the stuff into the water.

Cloudy water is not due to suspended particles, but rather high concentrations of dissolved substances because, by definition, particles will sink out of the water column.   Typically, the dissolved substances emanate from algae (their "exudate").  The probable cause is a shallow epilimnion (where the higher levels of oxygen and fish are at due to stratification), high water temperature (which speeds up metabolism), and introduction of nutrients (probably stirred up from the hypolimnion below the epilimnion during a big-ass rain event) that fueled an algae frenzy that depleted the oxygen.  

Recommended reading:  Gerald A. Cole's "Textbook of Limnology" or if you're into the archaic stuff, try Franz Ruttner's "Fundamentals of Limnology." Booth beat USA Today when you're on the commode.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@Willie @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul  

I'll see if I can get a refund on my Master's.

In the meantime, I will just apply Occam's Razor to these two competing hypotheses.

As far as the flocculant/coagulant, I'd suggest that you visit with DWU to see how they reduce the TSS in their disharges.

By the way, I was considering some type of "midnight" dumper with a 2,000 to 8,000 gallon tanker truck, metal plating wastes for example ...

PS:  The turnovers that you discuss usually occur during the onset of cold weather.

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