By Marissa Parra

CHICAGO (CBS) — Testing is underway to see what is killing off birds in Hammond, Indiana.

Officials are warning people to stay away from the area where birds are being found. CBS 2’s Marissa Parra reports residents are anxious to find a cause.

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Birder Carolyn Marsh has spent three decades watching Hammond’s birds like a hawk. Now, she’s watching them die by the dozens in Wolf Lake.

“It’s emotionally a roller coaster,” Marsh said.

After February’s harsh snowstorm, she expected to see some casualties

“But to see the number of birds in the Wolf Lake Channel was something I had to investigate,” Marsh said.

She is one of hundreds documenting her findings in the S.W.A.N. Save Whiting And Our Neighbors Facebook group, started years ago when they were finding dead swans in nearby Lake George.

Since the CBS 2 story aired a week ago, posts of dead birds haven’t stopped. Not just in Wolf Lake anymore. Now there are sightings here and there in places like Hammond Marina.

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And they’re not just finding dead birds.

“Here’s the dead carp. I found like four today,” said Don Koonce. “I am worried because I usually come out here and fish, and I usually come out here with my cousin and his kids, and until they figure out what’s going on there’s no way, you know what I mean?”

The Illinois Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) took samples around Wolf Lake and around  “discharge points” from industrial plants the other day. But fractured trust among people who live here means people like Marsh are looking at doing their own testing.

“Because of the lack of trust, there is the option that if we can get connected to a chemist, that is something we are considering,” Marsh said.

If the results of the testing come back to show it wasn’t because of weather or illness, IDEM said it will do further testing to see where it came from.

CBS 2’ Marissa Parra also reached out the mayor of Hammond for over a week now, to ask if their office is involved or concerned or doing anything to communicate with the people who live here. So far, no response. 

IDEM’s Barry Sneed sent a statement to CBS 2 about the issue:

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Screening for basic water parameters was conducted in Wolf Lake and Lake George with no water quality concerns noted.  Further testing may be conducted if warranted.  In addition, IDEM is investigating facilities with discharge points into Wolf Lake. We continue to ask the public to avoid the area while the investigation continues.