DEM seeks answers after fish kill found at Providence pond


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Repairs on a local dam have resulted in a fish kill on Canada Pond in Providence, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management confirmed.

The DEM said with the agency’s approval, the City of Providence has been lowering the water level so crews could make repairs to a low-level outlet at the bottom of the dam.

Work began in August. However, despite requirements that the water level be gradually lowered to minimize impacts on wildlife, the DEM confirmed fish have been dying.

“The city notified DEM last Wednesday that some fish were dying and that turtles and other amphibians were migrating out of the pond due to high oxygen demand. The city is taking actions to correct the situation and will be removing the dead fish.”

Gail Mastrati, Department of Environmental Management Spokesperson
Courtesy: Anthony Spaziano

DEM spokeswoman Gail Mastrati said the Division of Fish and Wildlife biologists went to the pond Monday to gather water samples to try and find out why exactly why the fish were dying off.

Courtesy: Anthony Spaziano

“They took readings of oxygen levels. Oxygen seemed adequate but would not necessarily coincide with the level when the fish began dying,” Mastrati said. “Even if the oxygen level were fine at the beginning, when fish are crowded into smaller areas, they use up most of the available oxygen in that space and then the decomposition of dead fish further lowers the oxygen content.”

In an email with contractors, the department listed steps to help fix the issue.

  • Not lowering the pond further
  • Installing a steel sheet pile cofferdam upstream of the low-level outlet gates that will allow the impoundment to be raised a foot or two (to provide a larger and deeper pool of water on the exterior of the cofferdam)
  • Using one of the existing drawdown pumps in order to recirculate and help oxygenate the upstream pool (pump water out and back into the pond)
  • Purchasing a floating aerator pump

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