By Marissa Parra

HAMMOND, Ind. (CBS) — Neighbors in Northwest Indiana are asking for more transparency about the environment after dozens of mysterious bird and waterfowl deaths in the area.

The spotlight is on the area of Wolf Lake after waterfowl and birds were turning up dead by the dozens. People here are hungry for answers. One of those answers came late Friday afternoon: the birds did not die from avian cholera, a bacterial disease.  Further testing to determine whether the cause was from a virus or toxin are still pending.

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Weeks after CBS 2’s first report on the wildlife deaths, Hammond’s Mayor, Thomas McDermott Jr., released a public statement this week, saying the city’s Department of Environmental Management took water and soil samples all along the lake.

According to the release, the findings “met standards” and “posed no environmental risk,” concluding “the data gathered by the water testing and soil testing does not point to either as being a cause of death of the waterfowl.”

Retired biologist Cynthia Walter and local residents like Marisa Rowden have questions. For example. how much time passed between when the birds died and when the samples were taken?

“It’s premature to conclude that,” Walter said. “We’re not ready to say all clear for that area.”

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Walter also wants to know what the tests wouldn’t be able to detect

“Those would have shown some extreme pollution, but we don’t know where the birds were.”

According to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, Indiana is at the top when it comes to toxic releases per square mile, according to data collected in 2019.

Rowden, who was a part of Friday’s protest demanding more information, says she’ll wait for the results of the necropsy on the birds. In the meantime, she wants better communication so they don’t have to fight for answers that could be a matter of public health.

“Today we are trying to make a point that while our environment is an industrial environment, we are trying to have transparency,” Rowden said. “We had public outcry and the mayor still wouldn’t respond to you or other outlets.”

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CBS 2 reached out to the Hammond mayor’s office to see if fully detailed results of water and soil samples will become publicly available. So, far, no response, but CBS 2 will follow up.