Mystery deepens after thousands of fish and birds wash up dead on the Canada shore of Lake Erie

CLEVELAND - The mystery deepens, as several agencies not only look for the reason why tens of thousands of fish washed up dead along the northern shores of Lake Erie, but seagulls as well.

Rick Nicholls, Member of Provincial Parliament for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, is an elected official who oversees part of the shore community where the fish washed up.

On Wednesday afternoon, Nicholls said that dead seagulls were also among the thousands of dead fish along the Canada shore.

"First thing that crossed my mind, is there any potential danger to humans from a health point of view?" Nicholls said. "Secondly, as I got more and more into it, what's the cause of this sudden fish kill in the lake?"

The Ontario Ministries of the Environment in Canada is pursuing several options. It is unclear if some sort of spill is to blame for the massive fish kill.

On Thursday, Nicholls said the Ministry is getting help from the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S. So far, investigating agencies have not found any spill to be a likely cause. Nicholls said authorities believe the cause is looking more like some sort of natural phenomenon.

Nicholls said one official was concerned there may have been an unauthorized manure dump that could have negatively impacted the lake's ecosystem.

If a manure dump, or any other kind of spill took place, Nicholls said criminal charges could be in the works, but that appears less likely now.

Samples of the dead fish and seagulls were sent to labs for analysis. The Ministry of the Environment also took water samples for oxygen and pH levels.

It is not yet clear if the birds died from eating contaminated fish or from exposure to an element in lake, or whether or not there is any contaminant in the lake at all. The Ministry is also looking into the possibility that blue-green algae may have affected the fish.

Ministry officials are looking into the possibility of several natural phenomenon as the cause, including a lake inversion.

When an inversion happens, it can bring cold water to the lake's surface. The water near the surface becomes more dense, and therefore has less oxygen, suffocating the fish.

A storm, strong winds or a steep drop in temperature at night can cause an inversion. It is a phenomenon that has happened in Lake Erie in the past.

The fish washed up along a 25-mile stretch of Lake Erie's Canada shore starting on Saturday. Since then, residents have been reporting an overwhelming smell of dead fish.

"That might lead to speculation it might have been something other than a lake inversion might have occurred," Nicholls said.

So far, Canadian authorities have not issued any form of a health alert regarding Lake Erie.

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