Contaminated creek creating wildlife and recreational woes

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EAST BERLIN, Pa. --Vicki Druck says her relatives enjoy visiting her home in East Berlin, where they can cool off along the Conewago Creek.

But now, she makes sure no one goes into the water because it is contaminated. "Just tell them they can't get into the water, and I think the rest of the kids should know about it too," Druck said.

Officials with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission say contaminants are to blame from Monday's chemical plant fire in Hanover. The number of dead fish is growing and could rise to 100,000, according to Dan Nietupski, a waterways conservation officer in York and Adams Counties.

He said water samples have been taken, but for now, the run-off chemicals from the fire are unknown. Authorities say the problem is ongoing because bait fish are dead and the bigger fish use them to feed on. "This could take a huge toll for a year or two for fishing, boating purposes, and drinking water purposes," Nietupski said.

Crews are working to stop the contamination at certain locations, but Nietupski says it's a challenging task. "We have booms set up to slow the water down, digging pits to contain the water in certain locations, but it's a losing battle," he said.

Officials in York and Adams Counties are urging residents to avoid fishing, boating, or swimming in Conewago Creek for at least 10 days. They say the contaminants need time to wash downstream and dissipate.

As nature takes its course, residents like Druck will have to wait for the creek to be cleaned up.