OJAI : Wheeler Resort Not Charged in Fish Kill

The California Department of Fish and Game will not file charges against Wheeler Hot Springs Resort near Ojai in connection with a recent fish kill, Lt. Chris Long, superintendent of the department’s Ventura County bureau, said.

The fish kill was reported July 1, but the department did not learn until about a week later that Wheeler officials had been dumping large quantities of chlorine into its hot tub waters, Long said Tuesday.

The delay, Long said, prevented his department from determining whether the chlorine made its way through discharge pipes into the stream, causing the death of about 30 fish.

Tom Marshall, general manager of Wheeler, said he does not believe the resort was responsible for the fish kill, which he blamed on dirt discarded into the nearby stream during recent construction in the area.


In the days preceding the fish kill, Wheeler had been grappling with persistent high bacteria levels in its hot tub waters.

The tubs had been shut down by the Ventura County Environmental Health Division on June 22 after tests showed that some of them had a bacteria count more than 30 times higher than allowed by the state.

Wheeler officials then started pouring as much as 100 times the normal amount of chlorine into the tubs on a regular basis to kill the bacteria.

After discovering during the second week of July that pipes from some of Wheeler’s tubs were feeding into Matilija Creek, Fish and Game launched its investigation into the fish kill.


County officials ordered Marshall to reroute the pipes so they do not flow into Matilija, and Marshall said his resort has complied.

The bacteria have now been eliminated and the tubs were reopened to the public in July, Marshall said.