Over the past six months, anglers demanded to know who dumped toxic waste into the East Branch of the Rocky River last spring that killed more than 30,000 fish, ranging from minnows to vibrant steelhead trout.
A diligent investigation by local, state and federal officials provided an answer Wednesday. Renato Montorsi, 79, and his wife, Teresina, 74, of Grafton, were indicted in federal court. The couple owned a business just up the hill from the fragile stream where rainbow trout are stocked and steelhead trout roam.
U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said Renato Montorsi wanted to get rid of a 55-gallon drum of liquid cyanide, so he punctured it and poured the toxic chemical into a nearby storm sewer a short distance away from the popular river.
The East Branch of the Rocky River is home to a rare population of sensitive big mouth shiners, a tiny fish on the threatened-species list. The watershed supports a small but viable population of extremely sensitive brook trout, a premier game fish in the region more than a century ago that fell victim to industrial pollution. To most everyone’s surprise, rainbow trout successfully spawn in the stream. People were outraged by the fish kill, incensed that someone would cheat them of their clean water and good fishing.
Nate and I were on the Rocky yesterday, near the Lake and saw a few fish caught. We didn’t catch any, but I don’t think we can blame the Montorsis on that one. I hope they enjoy spending the rest of their lives in prison.
Our old man started repairing my family’s 1960s Boston Whaler. This weekend, Nate and I took it out for the first run, a trip fly fishing for muskies on the extremely low water West Branch Reservoir. The system is connected to the Ohio River and the Army Corps of Engineers has been dumping water all summer to float ships on the Ohio and prevent downstream fish kills. That said, it seemed like a good opportunity to find big muskies holed up in more concentrated locations. Didn’t work out that way, but it was a beautiful fall sunrise on the water.