High E. coli and dissolved oxygen levels found to be related to death of thousands of fish

Published: Jun. 27, 2019 at 3:32 PM CDT
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For over a month, thousands of fish have been found dead in waterways of Logan and Warren Counties.

"We will investigate anytime there seems to be an intrusion into any of the waters of the Commonwealth," said Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet spokesperson, John Mura.

A team from the Division of Water took water samples throughout the Gasper River and up into Clear Fork Creek and it turned out that there were low oxygen levels and higher than normal readings of E. coli.

Mura says those readings indicate something had gone into the water that was related to the fish kill.

After investigating, the team came across the Woodward Feed lot and discovered their practices were not up to par.

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet then issued notices of violation. Mura says it was observed that there was runoff coming from the feedlot that entered Clear Fork Creek.

In one of the water readings it showed higher nutrient levels, which Mura says, they believe is from the feedlot.

"We have no way of knowing how long this has been going on," Mura says.

A Notice of Violation was sent to the owner, Wade Woodward on June 19.

"Generally speaking, we work pretty well with facilities that have been given notice of violation," Mura said.

The NOV said the owner failed to implement an effective agriculture water quality plan. Mura says, they had allowed manure to runoff into Clear Fork Creek which allowed the waters of the Commonwealth to be degraded.

Mura says what is most important currently, is that the owners are aware of the violation and that they need to clean up. He says this is normal procedure for the circumstances.

"Cease the discharge of manure runoff into Clear Fork Creek. Properly dispose of all animal remains. Ensure that no liquid feed / distillery byproducts enter the creek at the facility. Within thirty (30) days from the receipt of this notice, develop or renew an existing Agriculture Water Quality," the NOV stated the remedial measure(s), and date(s) to be completed.

"Violations of the above cited statute(s) and/or regulation(s) are subject to a civil penalty per day per violation. Violations carry civil penalties of up to $25,000 per day per violation depending on the statutes/regulations violated," said the NOV.

After the notice of violation has been sent, the facility or person responds with how they plan to fix the problem.

"These things aren't done in a week. They can take months," said Mura.

Mura said they are not aware of any previous violations by Woodward Feed Lot.

The Kentucky Division of Fish and Wildlife's investigation is not complete. Their concern is the wildlife that has been killed. They have the ability to issue significant fines, if they can find a responsible party, on top of the cabinet's fines.

"I think that the public should be relieved that the state is in the process of making an operator that is adjacent to the water way have a cleaner operation," Mura said.