Duck deaths at Lake Dot: Florida activist launches her own investigation, collects water samples

A week after more than a dozen dead ducks, as well as fish and turtles, were found decaying around Lake Dot in Sanford, investigators appear to have taken note.

Residents reached out to FOX 35 last week concerned about the number of dead ducks and wildlife found around the lake. What caused the animals' deaths? Was it something in the water? And who was responsible for cleaning the dead animals up?

Days later, FOX 35 followed up and found many of the dead animals were still there, decaying, and sending a strong and foul smell throughout the area.

"Just looking at some folks' yards, there’s a couple (of ducks) that are dying there and it seems to still be progressing. It just hasn’t stopped," said one resident. 

"I’ve called the police, animal control, water management, land management, parks and recreation, and leisure services. All I do is get transferred and every time I call FWC, they transfer me right back to my local agencies," another resident told FOX 35.

On Tuesday, a local activist launched her own investigation.

"Once I got here, I was pretty shocked at the amount of dead ducks, a dead turtle; the condition of the water was brown and stinky," said Katrina Shadix, who is the executive director of Bear Warriors United, an environmental conservation group.

She walked along the lake Tuesday afternoon to collect the remains of a duck to have it tested and figure out how it died. Officials who FOX 35 previously spoke to suspect bird flu may be the cause. 

Shadix also collected water samples to test for chemicals, such as diquat, which is found in herbicides, and bromide, a naturally occurring chemical in water. When mixed, the two have proven deadly for birds.

"This is very concerning because it creates a neurotoxin that kills bald eagles and if it could kill an eagle, it’s obviously going to be able to kill these ducks," said Shadix. It's expected to take three to four weeks to get the test results of the water samples back.

"If these tests come back with the high levels, like they did in Lake Kissimmee and Orange Lake, I hope that this will be a strong message to the County and to the FWC, and to the entire state, that we have to find a better way to manage our lakes," she said.

Her investigation caught the attention of Seminole County's Soil and Water Conservation.

"It’s such a small lake and with the number of birds that have been found dead in the area, it’s concerning," said Supervisor Jennifer Webb. "You also have playgrounds that are there. You have several homes that surround the lake so that’s when it raised an alarm to me."

She reported pollution concerns to Florida's Department of Environment Protection, who issued an official warning Tuesday morning about concerns of bird flu and pollution at the lake.

A spokesperson for FWC also responded to FOX 35's inquiries Tuesday and said agency representatives would be out later this week to collect their own samples.

Until the cause of death for the ducks and the contents of the lake are known, Supervisor Webb believes residents should stay clear of the area. 

"Do not go swimming in the lake. Do not go fishing in the lake. And I recommend staying probably at least 50 feet away from the shoreline, just to ensure that if there any kind of toxins nearby the lake, that people aren’t exposed to them," she said.