Dairy farm under scrutiny in fish kill

September 24, 2010 at 12:12 PM

MANSFIELD, IL—The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is looking into whether Stone Ridge Dairy - the largest in the state - may be responsible for a fish kill that destroyed 40,000 fish and other aquatic life.

The fish kill occurred about September 6, and filled over 9 miles of Lone Tree Creek and 1 mile of the Sangamon River with brown-stained water. Stone Ridge, built in 2002 near Champaign in central Illinois, has at least 3,100 cows and covers 1,500 acres.

An IEPA investigation into whether Stone Ridge Dairy is the cause of the contamination continues, said IEPA spokeswoman Maggie Carson. The IEPA also is reviewing discharges into Lone Tree Creek from 2003 and 2004 that were never traced back to a source.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) spokeswoman Januari Smith estimates that about 40,000 fish were killed, including large-and small-mouth bass, sunfish, carp and others. An unknown number of other aquatic life including mudpuppies - a threatened species in Illinois - mussels, frogs and crayfish were also killed.

IEPA says that although this is a significant fish kill, these kinds of agricultural discharges of toxic animal waste into Illinois waterways are not uncommon and are illegal.

“I would say they happen several times a year, almost once a month, especially because we have had so much rain in the past two and half years,” said IEPA officer Bruce Yurdin. “That kind of rain makes it more difficult to schedule livestock waste applications.”

Designed to hold 5,500 cows before expansion, with a manure pond going in right over a tributary to the Apple River, the Traditions megadairy presents itself as a ” zero discharge facility.”  So did Stone Ridge Dairy.