Fish dying in Delaware Canal in Falls, Morrisville

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Fish dying in Delaware Canal in Falls, Morrisville

A fish gasps for air before dying in the Delaware Canal in Falls on March 31, 2016.

State investigators are looking into what appears to be dozens — if not hundreds — of dead and dying fish in the Delaware Canal in Falls, south of Morrisville.

An investigation on Thursday by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection found that oxygen levels in the water were near zero, and thus likely the cause. But what’s causing the low oxygen is still being investigated, DEP spokeswoman Virginia Cain told our news organization.

Local resident Erin Burke, who lives along the canal, noticed the fish Thursday morning. She called the news organization, which, in turn, notified the DEP.

“I came out to feed my mallards and noticed that the fish were gasping for air, dead and bellied up,” Burke said. “Something’s wrong with the canal.”

Burke said she has lived at her home for more than 20 years and “never seen it like this.”

From Burke’s property on the 1400 block of Old Bristol Pike, dozens of fish, some already dead and others floundering or gasping, were visible along the Delaware Canal banks.

About a quarter mile down the canal, where the canal crosses under Old Bristol Pike, several dozen more were grouped along the edges of a culvert, mouths out of the water. Carp, sunnies and pike were all visibly struggling. A toad also sat unmoving along the banks.

Around noon, investigators from the DEP and rangers from the Delaware Canal State Park arrived and began taking samples of the water. They also are expected to take samples from farther up the canal near Morrisville, where they received a similar report Wednesday of a fish die-off.

Cain said rangers would be working on adding oxygen to the canal.

“(They’re) going to Yardley to open gates to allow cold, oxygen rich water from the Delaware River into the canal. Doing this will introduce oxygen to the system and should relieve stress on the fish,” Cain wrote in an email.

Burke said that whatever is causing the die-off, it’s disturbing.

“It’s a shame… I usually have 35 ducks in my yard… They left. I’m really worried,” she said.

The die-off comes one day after a new pump began delivering water from the Delaware River into the canal near Centre Bridge in Solebury. That site is at least 20 miles from where fish were going belly up Thursday morning.

Susan Taylor, director of the nonprofit Friends of the Delaware Canal, said that the water being supplied from that pump had reached only as far south as Route 202, and thus couldn’t be the cause. She said the water at the southern end of the canal already was supplied by the Delaware.

“This (die-off) is very strange,” she added.

Cain said the final results of the investigation would be made public when available.

Kyle Bagenstose: 215-949-4211; email:; Twitter: @KyleBagenstose

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