KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A state investigation has been launched after thousands of dead fish were found at several locations along the Pigeon River in Newport.

On Friday, Aug. 11, officers with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) reported dead fish from the Edwina Bridge down to the Newport police station. Fisheries biologists documented multiple species of dead fish at several locations.

Biologists investigated the surrounding area to determine potential contributing factors and documented muddy runoff from agriculture fields likely caused by heavy rains in the area.

TWRA biologists contacted the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for assistance and notified the Tennessee Department of Agriculture of the investigation. 

“A TWRA fisheries biologist contacted a TDEC representative and he advised that given the cause, we have no reason to believe it would be harmful to consume healthy-looking fish that survived the event. There also would not be bioaccumulative effects to the water or sediment.”

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

The incident remains under investigation.

The area of the Pigeon River where the fish kill occurred was already under a preexisting precautionary consumption advisory for smallmouth bass and channel catfish due to mercury.

Water generation from the dam likely pushed the dead fish further downstream, according to a TWRA release, while leaving higher numbers of dead fish at the top of the kill zone.