Fish kill raises questions about animal cruelty

by Jordan Green

Hundreds of dead fish have turned up in a lakebed on Koger Boulevard in southwest Greensboro. The lake has been draining for about a week, said Dan Essary, a field supervisor with Guilford County Animal Control, who added that someone evidently opened the drain to release the water. On Aug. 23, hundreds of fish, some as long as 18 inches, lay in a muddy pool at the bottom of the lakebed. Many of them had drifted together in a rim along the pool’s western edge. The lake lies between Holland Park, an office campus whose tenants include federal law enforcement agencies, and the Alamance Building. Both offices are owned by Allegiance Realty in Charlotte. “We’ve got two offices of people calling us, saying, ‘You’ve got a muddy mess back here,’” said Jeff Witek, vice president of portfolio management. “And now they’re saying, ‘It smells like dead fish.’ We can’t do anything about it.” Witek said the lake and a wooded area behind it are owned by developer Gary Merritt of Arbor Run Ventures. Witek said Merritt had been ordered by the state to drain the lake in order to stabilize Koger Boulevard.

“Last year, they either removed the fish or they did not drain the lake so low,” Witek said. “There wasn’t this issue. We were noti fied because we’re the adjacent property owners. This year, we got no notification.” Merritt did not return phone mes sages to YES! Weekly before press time. Essary said he contacted the Guilford County District Attorney to see if criminal charges could be brought against the owner of the lake. “We’re looking at animal cruelty, but we don’t know if it covers fish,” he said. “I know if you’ve got fish in an aquarium and you starve them you can be charged.” Essary said he had talked to the property owner on Monday, and believed the fish would quickly be cleaned up. It was unclear at press time whether the fish kill falls under state regulations. Susan Massengale, a spokeswoman for the NC Division of Water Resources, said if the pond is privately owned and not hydro logically connected to state waterways the owner could drain it and get rid of the fish without state oversight or regulation. The division planned to visit the site on Monday. — Jordan Green