The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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May 29, 2014

Conservation officials counting losses in Monett-area fish kill

MONETT, Mo. — There is some better news in the wake of a chemical spill that killed thousands of fish between Monett and Pierce City.

“We believe it’s subsided to the point we can’t find any new dead fish,” Andy Austin, fisheries regional supervisor with the Missouri Department of Conservation office in Springfield, said Thursday.

The Conservation Department, along with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, is investigating water contamination that caused a significant fish kill in a 4.5-mile stretch of Clear Creek.

No new dead fish were found, Austin said, when investigators went back to areas checked earlier where the fish kill seemed to have stopped.

“Yesterday (Wednesday), we established the downstream limit of the fish kill,” Austin said. “When we returned to that location today, we did not see any additional dead fish, and we saw some that were living. There are parts of the stream where it’s going to be a very significant fish kill, to the point of very few fish surviving. But the good news is, it didn’t expand downstream today, and we don’t expect it to.”

Investigators believe the cause of the kill was an undisclosed quantity of Alimet, an amino acid compound that Tyson Foods uses as a feed ingredient for its poultry operations in the area, going into Monett’s wastewater treatment plant on May 16. Skip Schaller, utilities superintendent at Monett, said the compound killed the bacteria that process the wastewater effluent, and caused virtually undiluted ammonia to flow into Clear Creek.

Schaller said Alimet, because of its extremely low pH level, is not something that can be treated by Monett’s plant. The plant’s operators were not informed by Tyson Foods that the chemical was being placed into their system, he said.

Officials have said the Alimet reportedly spilled at Tyson’s feed mill in Aurora. Tyson workers shipped the compound to Tyson’s pre-treatment plant next to its poultry plant in Monett. Wastewater from the poultry plant is pre-treated before it enters Monett’s municipal sewage plant.

Schaller said he expects a meeting will be arranged with Tyson officials and representatives of the Department of Natural Resources to make sure there is no recurrence.

Austin said the quality of water out of the Monett treatment plant “is greatly improved.”

“With good quality water coming out of the plant and no additional bad water, the material killing the fish is moving downstream and diluting to the point that the acute part of the fish kill is over,” he said.

Austin said the Department of Conservation will establish the number of fish killed in a report to go to the DNR, but numbers will not be available until a DNR report is released.

“This was a very significant kill,” he said. “Frequently, a kill involves one type of fish or species, or it will affect bigger fish more than small. This was so pervasive that all sizes and all species were impacted.”

Worth Sparkman, corporate spokesman for Tyson Foods, on Thursday said the company has no new information on the spill and “is awaiting additional details so we can understand if our operations played a role in what happened.”



Enforcement

WHILE CONSERVATION OFFICIALS are assessing the damage, any enforcement action that results from the spill will come from the Department of Natural Resources, which enforces the state’s water quality regulations.

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