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This Week in History: Mistake blamed for fish kill; moonshine found in Franklin; imposters steal pants, make money

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The Wake Weekly is bringing back a modified version of an old recurring feature. Instead of featuring stories that happened this week throughout the years, we will re-explore stories that took place during a particular year. This week, we turn the clock back 39 years to the week of July 19, 1980 ...

Fish kill caused by caustic soda

A large fish kill in a 20-mile stretch of the Neuse River was precipitated by a valve left on for an undetermined amount of time at a northside Raleigh water treatment plant, The Wake Weekly reported.

According to the report, the four-day kill of thousands of fish started when a thunderstorm and ensuing power outage caused confusion for the workers at the plant. A valve that was left on dumped an unknown amount of caustic soda into the storm drain, then through a ditch and into the river.

Lee Leonard, an employee at Riverside Tackle Shop, told The Wake Weekly he saw brown foam about 3 feet high in the river at the dam. The soda killed the fish by causing a high pH in the water, stripping the mucus membranes off the fish and burning the tissue of the gills.

“It was a complete kill,” said Don Baker, head of the Raleigh office of Inland Fisheries.

Workers used about 675 gallons of acid to treat the water during a 26-hour operation. They strung hosing across the river where it crossed U.S. 64 and introduced sulfuric acid into the water through 25-30 holes in the hose. Meanwhile, about 150 yards downstream, others monitored the water’s pH level.

A state biologist estimated the cost of clean-up and fish replacement would land somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000.

Deputies raid moonshine still

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and Alcohol Law Enforcement raided a moonshine still north of Franklinton, resulting in the arrest of four men.

The small operation was discovered in the woods. The Wake Weekly reported authorities watched the site for two weeks to wait for it to be used. Officials found two homemade submarine stills each with a mash capacity of 280 gallons each. A 1972 Ford pickup and some equipment were confiscated.

The four men who were arrested in the raid were Buck Day of Franklinton, Lloyd G. Harris of Creedmoor, Jeff Collins James of Hillsborough, and Joe Ellis Wortham of Kittrell. Each were charged with the manufacture of illicit whiskey and possessing the property to manufacture illicit whiskey. All of the chargers were misdemeanors.

Flim-flammers net big money

Three men posing as social service agents scored $600 off a Franklinton man after stealing his pants, The Wake Weekly reported.

Deputy Sheriff Randall Jones said three men drove on the property of Shug Bobbitt, who lived a mile south of Franklinton. According to the report, the men told Bobbitt they wanted to look over his house for remodeling work and their agency would finance the renovations.

While inside the house, one of the men told Bobbitt he had a machine which could help Bobbitt’s arthritis. He told Bobbitt to undress and he would bring the machine into the home. Bobbitt removed his pants and waited for the man to return.

Much to Bobbitt’s dismay, the man took his pants and joined the other two men in the car. They drove off with the slacks and Bobbitt’s wallet, which contained $600 in cash.

Jones said the men were not caught but that other flim-flam incidents had not been reported.