Mystery Solved: Cause of the 7-mile Fish Kill on Chartiers Creek

Pennsylvania officials got reports of a major fish kill in Chartiers Creek in mid-July 2021. Eighteen months later, we finally have some answers!

July 17, 2021 – Pennsylvania officials are investigating a “significant fish kill” along a 7-mile stretch of Chartiers Creek that has left hundreds if not thousands of suckers, carp, minnows and crayfish dead. The cause of the kill is unknown, Mike Parker, spokesman for the state’s Fish and Boat Commission, which is investigating along with the Department of Environmental Protection. The officers pinpointed the fish kill to a roughly 7-mile long area from around the Valley Brook Country Club in Peters to 7 miles downstream.

Jonathan D. Silver | Fish and Boat officials investigate ‘significant fish kill’ in Chartiers Creek | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“A ‘significant fish kill’ along a 7-mile stretch of Chartiers Creek that has left hundreds if not thousands of suckers, carp, minnows and crayfish dead.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In early August, this second story on the fish kill appeared in the Post-Gazette:

August 4, 2021 – After running tests on water samples collected at Chartiers Creek, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has determined that it wasn’t a herbicide that killed thousands of fish, but a fungicide. Tests on initial sampling, done on July 15, came back “non-detect” for herbicides, but positive for fungicide, said DEP spokesperson Lauren Fraley. During their initial investigation, the DEP said it had suspected some type of pesticide as the reason for what they deemed a “substantial” fish kill. The fish kill was estimated to have killed thousands of fish, according to the DEP.

By Hallie Lauer | DEP determines cause of Chartiers Creek fish kill to be fungicide

“The fish kill was estimated to have killed thousands of fish.”

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

Probably one year had passed, when I finally called the SW Region office of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to inquire about this incident further, since it apparently occurred in our township. I was told the investigation was ongoing, and they had no information for me.

After another 6 months had passed, and still no Press Release from the Pa DEP or Fish & Boat on this incident, I called the DEPagain. As is most often the case when calling the DEP office near Pittsburgh, a switchboard operator answered, and directed my call to an extension where I had to leave a voice mail. No response, so the following week I filled out the inquiry form on their website. Still nothing, so I phoned them again and left another message. No response, so I filled out the website form a second time.

Finally, I got an email response with minimal additional details on this major fish kill. So in my email reply, I asked further questions, and finally got an email response with this Consent Assessment of Civil Penalty (CACP). It was like pulling hens teeth to finally get this 5-page document. The truly baffling part, is why the Pa DEP has never issued a Press Release on the final resolution of this matter, with over 9 months having passed since their $37,500 CACP was signed with Valley Brook Country Club.

$37,500 CACP dated 7 April 2022 by and between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Environmental Protection and Valley Brook Country Club:

“On July 14, 2021, Valley Brook applied five different pesticides to the Red Course in the vicinity of the Red Course’s hole 4. Two of the pesticides were applied to greens and three were applied to tees and roughs on the Red Course. While Valley Brook staff were applying these pesticides, a ten- to fifteen-minute rain event occurred.”

April 7, 2022 CACP
Valley Brook Country Club
Chartiers Creek skirts the golf course on two sides and also passes through the middle.

Google map:

Dead fish in Chartiers Creek in July 2021. Courtesy of Sam Carroll (Source)

Bob’s July 18, 2021 photos
(Left) Brown foam in Chartiers Creek near Buckeye Street in Peters Township
(Right) Brown foam near Mayview Road bridge and Boyce Park in Upper St. Clair

Additional related documents:

January 25, 2023 (KDKA) – Washington County country club fined for Chartiers Creek fish kill

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