Kissena Lake in Flushing, Queens, a popular fishing spot in Kissena Park, was dotted with dead and dying carp, many of them gasping for air at the water's surface, from Tuesday night through Thursday evening. According to the Parks Department, the mass death was the result of an algae bloom following a flash flood on Tuesday that reduced the amount of oxygen in the lake.
"There are tons of dead fish in the park as of two nights ago," a tipster told us Thursday night. "Huge fish are floating in the formerly beautiful lake and the usual turtles and many of the birds are nowhere to be seen. The sight is devastating and horrifying." Kissena is home to many largemouth bass, yellow perch, American eel and, according to the Parks Department, a "large turtle population," although no turtle deaths have been reported.
"It smells terrible and is terrifying to children and adults alike," she said.
According to the Parks Department, Kissena Lake is fed by natural wells that provide fresh water to the lake's fish under "normal circumstances." However, a flash flood on Tuesday afternoon prompted a blue-green algae bloom across the lake. As a result, "oxygen levels in the lake dropped off, endangering the fish population."
"They were sticking their mouths out of the water to get more air, which is very rare behavior," said Parks spokesman Sam Biederman.
Our tipster tells us that, according to many of her neighbors, only one of "several" wells adjacent to Kissena is currently functional. Some speculate that if more wells were circulating fresh water through the lake, a bloom of this magnitude would not have occurred.
Biederman confirmed that there are three wells adjacent to the lake, two of which are currently functional. He stressed, "We don’t believe the limited functionality was what led to the fish deaths, rather the sudden rain after a relatively dry period flushing a large accumulation of sediment and debris into the lake is far more likely to have been the culprit." The broken well is being fixed, according to the Biederman, "right now."
The Parks Department says that it sent in crews with pumps on Wednesday morning, to suck water from the lake and spray it back in, aerating the water in the process. "We brought all our pumps down here and we started pumping water out of the lake, throwing it up into the air to try to catch as much oxygen as possible and re-oxygenate the water," Gus Menocal, Queens supervisor of Parks plumbers, told NY1.
A local told the news outlet that "the Parks Department was scooping them up [on Thursday] with a net and throwing them in the garbage pails." To this, Biederman responded mildly, "I can confirm we have sent staffers out in boats and with nets to collect the fish who perished."
The oxygen pumping ended late last night, but the Parks Department cautions that more dead fish—fatalities from Tuesday and Wednesday that likely died in "deeper water"— might still float up to the surface today.
One neighbor told CBS, "I've been here for 25 years and I've never seen this kind of devastation." Biederman could not confirm if this particular die-out was unusual at Kissena.