Fracking Fluids Responsible for Fish Mass Die-off in Kentucky’s Acorn Fork


Hydraulic fracturing kills! The U.S. Geological Survey and and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have demonstrated that the widespread death or distress of aquatic species in Kentucky’s Acorn Fork is related to hydraulic fracturing fluids spilling from nearby natural gas well sites.

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Fracking kills Blackside daces in Kentucky. Photo: KoiQuestion.

This is older news but of great interest. After the spill of hydraulic fracturing fluid, state and federal scientists observed a significant die-off of aquatic life in Acorn Fork including the Blackside dace as well as several more common species like the Creek chub and Green sunfish.  They had been alerted by a local resident who witnessed the fish die-off.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Commonwealth of Kentucky are currently working towards restoration of the natural resources that were injured by the release.


To determine the cause of the fish die-off, the researchers collected water and fish samples immediately following the chemical release in 2007. The samples analyses and results clearly showed that the hydraulic fracturing fluids degraded water quality in Acorn Fork, to the point that the fish developed gill lesions, and suffered liver and spleen damage as well.

After the fracturing fluids entered Acorn Fork Creek, the water’s pH dropped from 7.5 to 5.6, and stream conductivity increased from 200 to 35,000 microsiemens per centimeter.  A low pH number indicates that the creek had become more acidic, and the stream conductivity indicated that there were higher levels of dissolved elements including iron and aluminum.

Acorn Fork and Blackside dace

The Acorn Fork is a small Appalachian creek. It is habitat for the federally threatened Blackside dace, a small colorful minnow, which has been listed as threatened species since 1987. The Acorn Fork is designated by Kentucky as an Outstanding State Resource Waters. The Blackside dace typically lives in small, semi-isolated groups, so harmful events run the risk of completely eliminating a local population.  The species is primarily threatened with loss of habitat.

You can find more on this research entitled “Histopathological Analysis of Fish from Acorn Fork Creek, Kentucky Exposed to Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Releases,” in a special edition devoted to the Blackside dace of the scientific journal Southeastern Naturalist,

This map shows you were you can find some more fracking polluted rivers.

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