The ‘Catastrophic Failure’ of 21,000 Fish at a California Research Center

An estimated 21,000 fish died at the University of California, Davis’ aquatic research center due to chlorine exposure, a “catastrophic failure” that astonished experts and would considerably delay their investigations.

In a statement, the university promised to look into “where our procedure failed” and launch a third-party audit.

“We share the pain of the faculty, staff, and students who worked to care for, research, and conserve these species,” U.C. Davis said.

The fish were found dead in several tanks at the Center for Aquatic Biology and Aquaculture on Tuesday. The center is on five acres and has research programs that focus on keeping California’s aquatic species alive and promoting sustainable aquaculture production, according to the center’s website.

When asked about the source of the chlorine on Sunday, Laurie Brignolo, executive director of the Research and Teaching Animal Care Program at U.C. Davis, indicated that university authorities suspected a chlorination system used to disinfect water contaminated with fish infections.

Officials at the institution were baffled as to how the chlorine got into the fish tanks and if that was actually the case. Ms. Brignolo suggests that a backup in the waterline system may be to blame for the chlorine flowing in the opposite direction.

The University of California, Davis, has promised to investigate the cause of the accident and implement adjustments to the campus’s infrastructure to prevent a repeat occurrence.

While many of the university’s other aquatic research sites “do not have similar potential for chlorine exposure, there are some that do,” the institution has stated that it will assess the danger posed by chlorine exposure in those locations.

Ms. Brignolo stated that since the center’s construction in the 1950s, there had never been such a “complete loss” of fish. She also mentioned that “daily quality assurance on the pump and the water going through” was something that was checked by workers. She added that around 21,000 fish had been counted the night before the loss.

However, Ms. Brignolo stated that during the course of the night, enough chlorine had leaked into the tanks to reach levels comparable to those seen in municipal tap water, which is toxic to fish. Pet fish should not be housed in water containing any amount of the chemical.

Fish at the site, including endangered Chinook salmon and green and white sturgeon, had their sensitive gills and skin harmed by chlorine.

Almost all of the fish had perished within 12 hours.

Ms. Brignolo claimed to have gotten an email from the center’s manager, who was among the first to arrive on Tuesday morning. Ms. Brignolo reported that the manager had deemed the loss of thousands of fish to be terrible.

The losses were counted by a tank at the command center. The number of surviving fish was somewhere around 100.

“It’s devastating,” she exclaimed.

Scientists and advanced students had been utilizing the fish to examine the results of disease and environmental shifts on certain species.

Ms. Brignolo said that although the massive loss of fish at the institute would not entirely halt researchers’ investigations, it would considerably set them back, in some cases by years.

Staff members’ hearts have been broken by the tragedy. The university has provided a grief treatment program for the affected students and employees.

Ms. Brignolo explains that the fish in the tank are being utilized for scientific research and that their job is to provide a secure environment for the fish. The feeling of having failed completely is added.

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