It was a massacre, a grim reminder of even worse damage being wrought.
The piles of dead trout I recently saw at the Elk Creek Fish Hatchery had been killed by liquid manure runoff that turned the hatchery's waters into frothy, brown poison. Robbed of about 30,000 fish, the hatchery owner believes a nearby farmer, whom he once sued over another fish kill, is to blame for applying too much manure on frozen ground. An investigation continues.
But regardless of the outcome, one conclusion is clear: A bigger loss lies hundreds of miles away.
The Chesapeake Bay is dying, strangled by this kind of nitrogen-rich fertilzer runoff multiplied by thousands and carried by streams to rivers and then down the mighty Susquehanna. Crabs and fish meet the same demise as their freshwater cousins did last week.
In fact, the president of the Cheseapeake Bay Foundation, a nonprofit organization trying to save the bay, used the Centre Daily Times photos of the hatchery fish kill in a presentation to college students.
Dan Brigham, the hatchery's owner, worries about the state's waterways and the bay. He thinks state and local environmental officials could do a better job enforcing fertilizer regulations and checking for infractions — all to prevent effluent like last week's spill from tightening the bay's chokehold more.
Of course, underfunded and overworked inspectors have a tough task. With the number of farms, they certainly have their hands full.
But when your hands are scooping out the remnants of a business literally laying in ruins, it's hard to feel secure about the future.