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9,000 fish, 75 frogs dead after over-chlorination at University of Alberta

goldfish in Vietnam
File: Goldfish. AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki

Thousands of fish and dozens of frogs are dead after some of the freshwater fish tanks at the University of Alberta were flooded with chlorinated water.

A dechlorination failure occurred in the Biological Sciences Aquatics Facility sometime between 4 p.m. on Friday, May 12 and 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 13.

The U of A said in a media release Tuesday morning that an electrical switch that provides power to the sodium thiosulfate pump that dechlorinates the water failed due to corrosion, stopping the pump.

The power outage caused the primary pump and a backup pump to fail.

The chlorine found in the domestic water supply is toxic to the fish and frogs and without the dechlorination pump, chlorine levels became fatal within 30 minutes.

“The University of Alberta regrets the loss of any animal in our care and we are doing everything possible to ensure this does not happen again,” said Lorne Babiuk, vice-president of research.

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“We have advised the appropriate regulatory body, the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC), about the incident and our response. We will not resume research in the affected freshwater tanks until the university and CCAC are satisfied it is absolutely safe to do so.”

In total, the university lost more than 9,000 animals.

  • 75 frogs (with 15 survivors)
  • 1,093 adult trout and approximately 6,000 fingerling
  • 96 carp (64 survivors)
  • 2,073 goldfish (163 survivors)
  • 6 graylings (0 survivors)
Researcher Greg Goss in the Biological Sciences Aquatics Facility at the University of Alberta.
Researcher Greg Goss in the Biological Sciences Aquatics Facility at the University of Alberta. Courtesy, John Ulan, University of Alberta