People of the Pearl River are feeling their stomachs drop at news of the latest “fish kill” which seems more of a “River Kill.” Temple-Inland’s “slug” of “black liquor” -an untreated mash of tannins, lye, soaps, sulfuric and other unknown compounds that is the regular waste of the pulping process Temple-Inland pumped their noxious slug of extra-awful chemical waste into our Pearl from around this past Tuesday to about Sunday noon, creating an acute decrease in oxygen as it passed downstream, suffocating much life in the water. The long term effects have yet to be projected. Temple-Inland wastewater treatment pond in 2009, dumping its black plume as permitted. Several historical aerial photos show the black plume pumped past the outfall.Black liquor, after treatment for use as a fuel [Wikipedia]Millions of fish and mussels have died, with reports of turtles and snakes and even one report of land animals among the dead in the interior. Other fish have been seen gasping for air as the wave of black water passes into the estuary. After five days of dumping, the slug stopped coming on and reports tell that the waters downriver from the pipe have cleared as the plant was shut down but what of the river bottom? Will a well-mixed slug continue for five days past each point it passes? Or will some materials fall out into the river bottom upstream, and continue to leach tannins, soaps, and whatever else into the river for a longer period? We have come to expect the worst.Parishes in Louisiana have issued States of Emergency, and St. Tammany has posted signs advising avoidance of the water at landings. People have reported skin irritation and sore throat from unknowing exposure to the water.After traveling across highway 90 and up the West Pearl this afternoon, I can confirm that local families and individuals are wandering to the river to witness the piles of dead fishes and mussels that have passed landings and are stockpiling in backwaters from Bogalusa past Old Indian Village. The talk from Old Indian Village is that many carcasses could be seen floating downstream yesterday; two days previous in regards to Pearl River at I-59. And now the black water seems to have reached the Lake, as Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation has released a log of their monitoring of a “foam line” that floats with dead Gafftopsail catfish (a strong-swimming marine fish), as well as a press release on dead fishes, mussels, mudpuppies and invertebrates found as their team monitored the extent of the black water.Our GRN scouting duo passed along Hwy 90, discussing what carnage local people had witnessed when. I can personally confirm that the water of the east pearl at highway 90 will cause a slight skin irritation for about half an hour after a few seconds exposure. I don’t recommend touching the water, but will be floating the River near Bogalusa this morning. Paul Orr with Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper, found Porter’s Bayou, off Davis Landing (West Pearl south of I-59 N of I-10) to be choked with death:…Porters Bayou it quickly became clogged by large rafts of dead fish and clams. There were every kind of fish that you would expect to find. Channel catfish, flathead catfish, blue catfish, freshwater drum, buffalo fish, American eel and a variety of shad and bream were the easiest to recognize and made up the bulk of the dead fish we saw. There was also a really astounding number of dead clams, many large baseball to softball size clams and smaller clams as well. The other creatures that we saw dead in large numbers were the the larval forms of the dragonfly and the mayfly.GRN’s own Gilbert Ramseur found the smell at I-59 overpowering on Tuesday:”I knew it was going to be bad when I opened my car door and instantly was hit with a very powerful “dead fish odor” – I parked about 400 yards from the river “On social media, a group has formed with several hundred people, who have posted some pictures of the dead, including a picture attributed to the Bogalusa times I dare not post, in a kind of prayer that it’s not true. More to come as we travel the river by air and water.Scott Eustis is GRN’s Coastal Wetland Specialist.