Manure spill fouls four miles of creek 7.22.09

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Faulty irrigation equipment is suspected of sending partially treated liquid manure into Little Bear Creek from a field near the Chesterfield Dairy on Fulton County Road 14 in Royalton Township.dairy.fish_kill.jpg

Representatives from the Ohio EPA were still investigating the manure discharge on Tuesday while cleanup work continued.

Fulton County Emergency Services director Brett Kolb said he was notified of the incident about 9:30 p.m. Thursday by a call from the sheriff’s department.

Kolb said township resident Maurice Barden was inspecting crops in a field near County Road 12 when he discovered manure in the creek that flows through his property. He reported the manure to law enforcement officials.

According to the Ohio EPA report, Kolb called the agency at 10:08 p.m. to report the stream was “running black with manure” and said he would investigate further. Kolb later reported that it could be coming from a nearby dairy, but he said later that tracking the source in the dark would be difficult. The agency took the report and sent workers to the scene the next morning.

Kolb said the creek was temporarily dammed near County Road 10 to prevent the additional flow of manure. A pump is removing contaminated water from the stream and transporting it to a sealed container.

At that point, manure hauling equipment siphons the mixture out and applies it to fields. Kolb spoke with dairy owner Karel van de Kolk at the scene and learned that about one load an hour was being removed Tuesday.

The pump is capable of removing much higher quantities of water, Kolb said, but the rate of flow in the creek slows the process.

Kolb said he learned from van de Kolk that the arm of a pivot irrigation device became stuck in an open position and flooded the field with liquid manure. van de Kolk told him the manure was from the final lagoon in the farm’s treatment system, when it’s ready for field application.

Dina Pierce, media specialist with the Ohio EPA, said the investigation continues.

“We’re asking a lot of questions, so the details may change as we get a clearer picture of what happened,” she said.

The agency wants to know if the irrigation equipment was unattended.

The manure initially traveled through a field tile before reaching the creek. The tile was plugged to stop the flow of manure and efforts Tuesday also focused on cleaning out the tile without adding additional manure to the creek.

Fish kill

The Ohio DNR was also called to the scene after dead fish were found floating downstream.

The agency’s district law supervisor Ron Kurfis said workers are continuing to tabulate the damage to wildlife.

Kurfis didn’t yet have results from a species listing, but heard that chain pickerel, small mouth bass and carp were among the fish killed. Many were in the eight- to 12-inch range and he suspected larger carp were involved.

Kurfis explained that a value is assigned to wildlife to determine a financial penalty.

“Each fish, each minnow, each animal has a value,” he said. “We tabulate the number of animals killed, each species by length. That’s how we come up with a value.”

If necessary, a civil complaint for restitution will be filed, Kurfis said, but cases generally advance to civil action. In most cases, he said, payment is voluntarily made.

The large volume of manure in the water displaces the oxygen needed by aquatic life, Kurfis said, and leads to what could be likened to suffocation.

He said the dissolved oxygen level in one portion of the creek was measured between one and two parts per million and ammonia at 10 parts per million.

“Under those conditions, the fish cannot get enough oxygen to survive,” Kurfis said.

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