Authorities in Anxin County in Hebei Province attributed the death of 1 million kilograms of fish in Baiyangdian Lake to environmental changes, triggering controversy among fishermen who blamed illegal chemical dumping.
Flooding in the upstream Xiaoyi River sent a large amount of mud and wastes into the lake and decreased oxygen in the water, which caused many fish to die, authorities said.
But fishermen said the lake had turned black and red and emitted a smelly odor because of illegal chemical discharges from factories in the upstream counties, poisoning the fish, Beijing Times reported yesterday.
The fish died between August 12 and August 14, causing economic losses up to tens of millions of yuan. The fish were removed and buried on August 18, the paper said.
Wang Xiaocang, a fisherman from Dahenan Village, said fish started to jump out of the water.
"The mixture of mud and water has a lot of floating debris and never emits stinky smells, but this time, the water smells so bad," Wang said.
A local villager surnamed Liu said the upstream water had given off a strong odor since August 5 and "forced villagers to close the windows and doors" to avoid being overwhelmed by the odor.
The fishermen suspected textile mills and fur processors in Gaoyang and Lixian counties caused the contamination. They said they would bring the plants to the court if they got conclusive evidence, the paper said.
Local government officials said the fishermen who suffered big losses could register for compensation.
Villagers said many plants in Gaoyang and Lixian were closed in 2006 after massive fish kills at Baiyangdian Lake. However, the factories reopened soon.
Residents in Nanzong Village denied the plants directly discharged waste to the river, but admitted illegal dumping in some ditches linked to it.