Ottawa

A demand for answers after more dead fish wash up in Gatineau

Residents are calling for answers after about 100 more dead fish were discovered by Quebec's Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks in eastern Gatineau, Que.

'People are swimming in this. It’s not acceptable,' says deputy director of local ferry

One of about 100 dead fish that washed up in eastern Gatineau, the fourth such wave in the last month. (Lorian Bélanger/Radio-Canada)

Residents are calling for answers after about 100 more dead fish were discovered by Quebec's Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks in eastern Gatineau, Que.

This is the fourth wave of deaths since early July. More than 2,000 dead fish have been found in the area where the Lièvre River joins the Ottawa River near Masson-Angers.

Teams from the ministry were on hand Wednesday night investigating the third wave of deaths that killed about 1,000 fish earlier this week when they discovered the latest batch of dead fish.

Samples are being sent to a lab for analysis.

'We need answers, and quick'

"We need answers, and quick ... because four times in a month, it's too much," said Sylvain Lamoureux, deputy director of the local ferry service Traversier Bourbonnais.

Over the past week, he and his employees have collected about 150 dead fish, including a dozen different species, around the Gatineau side of the ferry's property.

"After a month, [tests] need to be done urgently," he said. "People are swimming in this. It's not acceptable."

A recently dead carp could be seen washed up on a beach near a boat launch in Masson-Angers on Aug. 1, 2019, just metres from where the Lièvre River joins the Ottawa River. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

One of the people who swims, fishes and boats regularly in both rivers is Mathieu Riel.

He only learned about all the dead fish Thursday, and said he was surprised.

"[The river is] something that's part of me. I've been fishing in there and swimming for so long, since I [was] young. So, it's kind of hard to kind of go away from it," Riel said.

"But knowing that there's fish dying, it's kind of scary."

Since early July, more than 2,000 dead fish have been found in the area where the Lièvre River joins the Ottawa River. Sylvain Lamoureux, deputy director of the local ferry service Traversier Bourbonnais says people want answers. 0:51

More questions than answers

"The city has not told anybody anything, yet people are still depending on this water," said Guillaume Carle, who owns several properties along the Ottawa River waterfront.

"Something has to happen. They have to put systems in the water to check the water to make sure it's not polluted to kill people or fish."

He said he's noticed hundreds of dead fish over the past month.

"The smell is unbelievable and the amount of fish is unbelievable," he said, adding he's unhappy with the level of communication between the city, the province and residents.

Guillaume Carle owns several waterfront properties in Masson-Angers and says he's concerned because there's been very little information from the city and the province about whether the water in the area is safe. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

"The city, the province, [have] a moral responsibility to tell the people that are here, 'Don't touch this water until we fix it,'" Carle said.

Residents who find any dead fish are asked to pick them up using disposable gloves, put them in a plastic bag and throw them in the garbage.

Test results expected next week

Necropsies done on the first wave of dead fish suggested a toxic spill was likely to blame, officials from the Centre québécois sur la santé des animaux sauvage said.

There's been no information on what could have caused the latest deaths.

Officials with the province's Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks said technicians saw the latest wave of deaths and were able to collect samples from the gills of nearly dead fish.

They hope an analysis of the gills will provide more insight into what is causing the deaths.

Public health officials in the Outaouais are warning people not to drink river water or eat fish in areas with obvious pollution or where fish are found dead. They're also suggesting people swim in areas where the water is regularly tested and avoid areas where there's an abnormal colour or odour.

With files from Kimberley Molina