Greg Conley, an investigator for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, said the fish were doing everything they could to escape on Tuesday - short of jumping out of the water.
By Thursday, he
was back at the creek to count dead fish. Conley
started at the northwest tip of Pinecrest Country Club. where Union Pacific contractors had put in underflow dams to catch the chemicals on the surface of the water. Conley, a pollution biologist, didn't see anything of interest - besides the oily sheen on the water - until he hit the back nine of the golf course. He
scooped up a 7-inch bullfish floating upside down, and another, and then a bluegill sunfish.A short walk down stream yielded even more.
said, jumping into the muddy water to fish out a tiny black spotted top minnow.
In January, Conley
became East Texas' only representative of the TPWD's Kills
and Spills team.The spill at Long Creek was his
first at his
new job, but he
saw plenty of action during nine years with the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission
"I know my fish," he
On a case like the one at Long Creek, Conley's job is to document the total number of dead fish, the different species, sizes and effect on wildlife.Then he
turns in his
data to the department, which then decides whether to levy a fine against the offending party.
If Union Pacific gets a fine from TPWD, Conley
expects it to be a low one because of the minimal quality of the fish found dead.Killing game fish would levy a larger fine because it costs more to raise and stock them, he
scooped 18 fish out of the water between Cotton Street and Gum Springs Road.
"You know there's got to be stuff we're not seeing out here," he
trudged on to Interstate 20, finding more dead fish along the way, sometimes in clusters caught in the vegetation.He
ended up with about 100 dead fish in a 5-gallon bucket.
Two positive signs, he
said, were the wildlife he
found - turtles, frogs, ducks and a great blue heron - all seemed to be doing fine, and as he
moved further away from the spill he
began to see live fish that showed only moderate signs of stress."I think they were swimming downstream as fast as they could."