40,000 fish killed in central Illinois

September 14, 2010 at 10:57 AM

BELLFLOWER, Ill. (AP) - Investigators are trying to figure out exactly what caused a fish kill that destroyed 40,000 fish and other aquatic life in central Illinois.

The fish kill happened over 9 miles of Lone Tree Creek and 1 mile of the Sangamon River, from the creek in southeastern McLean County to where it flows into the Sangamon.

A spokeswoman for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency says the investigation is ongoing. But IEPA spokeswoman Maggie Carson tells the (Bloomington)
Pantagraph that a nearby dairy is likely the source of contamination in the waterways. Carson says the dairy is cooperating with the investigation.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources says the fish killed include largemouth and smallmouth bass, sunfish and carp. The DNR says mussels, frogs and crayfish were also killed.

Here’s additional information on the fish kill from Prairie Rivers Network:

Fish kill in McLean County due to weak laws

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency reported water samples taken from the affected streams contained ammonia. While the agency has not yet revealed the source of the spill, the pollution likely drained off a field located on the Stone Ridge Dairy Farm in McLean County. Constructed in 2002, Stone Ridge is Illinois’ largest dairy farm, with 3,100 cows.

“This total kill is an unfortunate example of why we need more protective, clear laws in Illinois regarding managing waste from large factory farms,” said Glynnis Collins, executive director of Prairie Rivers Network (PRN). “From a single spill, the people of Illinois have lost tens of thousands of fish and other aquatic animals. We will be communicating closely with state agencies as the investigation progresses to ensure they respond adequately to this disaster.”

IEPA confirmed that Stone Ridge Dairy does not currently have a permit to discharge pollution, although the IEPA will likely require them to apply for one if they conclude the dairy was the source of the ammonia spill.

“The Federal Clean Water Act requires factory farms that ‘discharge or propose to discharge’ to have National Pollutant Discharge Elimination (NPDES) permits.  Although the Illinois EPA issued a new General NPDES Permit for factory farms in 2009, a vast majority of these types of facilities are operating without permit coverage.  Had this facility been appropriately regulated under the NPDES permitting program, it is probable this catastrophic pollution event would not have occurred,” says Danielle Diamond, attorney and organizer for the Illinois Citizens for Clean Air & Water.

Citizens and members of Prairie Rivers have been calling to report their concern over the spill.  PRN members who live in the Foosland area, say local residents have been concerned about potential polluting discharges from the dairy even before the facility was built.

Two weeks ago, before the spill, an anonymous local resident was out bicycling on a country road about a half mile south of the Foosland post office, when he stopped at a bridge that crosses Lone Tree Creek: “I was there at noon, and the high sun allowed me to see the glinting scales of hundreds of carp and smaller fishes as they fed on the plant life along the bottom of the creek. Fishes of all sizes were intermingling and rolling; their swishing tails were turning up silt from the creek bed. The water was clear enough to see a few crayfish moving about. A blue heron was fishing in the drainage. The creek I saw was thoroughly vibrant with life.”