Friday, May 10th, 2019

Fertilizer spill results in fish kill

Property owners could face fines

By William Kincaid
CELINA - A 2,750-gallon liquid fertilizer tank reportedly ruptured this week and is believed to have dumped its contents into Chickasaw Creek, killing "a bunch" of fish, according to Mercer County Soil and Water Conservation District Technician Matt Heckler.
The spill occurred at 7558 State Route 274, on property owned by Dean and Jeff Homan, Heckler noted. He said the owners could potentially face fines.
The alleged incident is under investigation by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio Department of Agriculture and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Heckler revealed at SWCD's regular meeting on Thursday morning.
ODNR Division of Wildlife spokesperson Kathy Garza-Behr confirmed an investigation is ongoing but said she doesn't know how many fish have been killed.
"This really doesn't fall under our jurisdiction because it's not manure," Heckler said, adding a formal report will be presented to the board next month.
However, SWCD staff spent several hours on Tuesday and Wednesday responding to the spill and pumping contaminated water out of the creek.
SWCD office received a call at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday about discolored water in Chickasaw Creek, Heckler said. SWCD staff went out around 1 p.m. and found the discolored water was not coming from a nearby wastewater treatment plant. Staff spent the next two hours tracking the source.
"It was determined to be coming from a 10-34-0 tank (containing liquid fertilizer composed of nitrogen and phosphorus) that had ruptured earlier that morning," Heckler said, noting the fertilizer was running across the driveway at 7558 State Route 274.
Heckler attributed the rupture to the age of the tank, saying it was about 20 years old.
The owners had tried to contain part of the spill by pushing it onto a cow lot, Heckler said. But the liquid fertilizer discharged into a downspout tile and out to the Chickasaw Creek.
"It had run through approximately 5 miles of creek," he said. "It killed most of, if not all of, the fish in that ditch."
After plugging the tile on Tuesday, SWCD staff, at the request of an OEPA official, pumped contaminated water from the creek at Guadalupe Road and County Road 219A.
"We removed approximately 72,000 gallons out of the ditch," he said. "The sanitary department did accept the suck water from the open ditch."
SWCD staff returned to the area on Wednesday.
"Wildlife officers were out there at that point counting fish. They started at the lake, working their way toward (State Route) 274," Heckler said. "They indicated that it killed a bunch of fish. Now, what the value on that is, I don't know, and we won't know until a couple weeks, months from now, when we get a report."
SWCD workers then began flushing water through the tile at the spill site, trying "to clean that pipe out to get as much of it out as possible," Heckler said.
The tile will remain plugged until water testing shows it's OK to reopen.
"The landowners had to clean up all the gravel … in the driveway there," he said. "They had it stored in the building right now."
ODA Division of Plant Health ordered the owners to remove all fertilizer from the site, Heckler said, adding the ruptured tank must be taken to a landfill.
OEPA got involved because of the surface-water pollution, ODNR because of the fish kill and ODA because of the fertilizer spill, SWCD district administrator Nicole Hawk said.
Heckler was asked if the owners knew about the rupture.
"They had cleaned it up as much as they thought they needed to," he said. "They scraped the driveway and tried to direct any of the other surface runoff into the lot and ultimately to the holding pond."
Heckler said if SWCD staff had known about the incident sooner, they might have been able to take steps to reduce the spill's impact.
"The lesson here is as soon as you see something, let us know because it can be mitigated sooner, I think," Hawk said.
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