by Ray Downs
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources says that an ammonia leak from a Tyson Foods plant in southeast Missouri seeped into a freshwater creek and killed thousands of fish.
Last week, residents in and around Monett -- a city about halfway between Joplin and Springfield -- began to notice dead fish floating upside down along Clear Creek, a popular spot for fishing and swimming. The Department of Natural Resources investigated and found high levels of Alimet in the water, which they traced back to a nearby Tyson Foods plant.
Alimet is a chemical used in chicken and cattle feed that contains ammonia. The result was extremely deadly.
Monett Utilities Superintendent Skip Schaller describes it as a "100 percent kill," reports the Monett Times.
And Adam Boman, the lead on the investigation, tells the Joplin Globe that, basically, everything in the creek is dead.
"It's a complete kill between Monett and Pierce City, and a partial kill after Pierce City because of springs that are diluting whatever it is that is killing the fish," he says. "We are talking about thousands of fish."
A full investigation of how this happened is supposed to be released this week. But the Globe reports that on May 16, a spill at the Tyson plant caused untreated wastewater to get into the Monett sewage water treatment facility. The city's facility is unequipped to handle high levels of ammonia, so the Alimet stayed in the water. The "treated" water got dumped into Clear Creek and started killing the fish.
"When that happened, the ammonia in the waste coming into the plant wasn't being treated, so we were having higher ammonia amounts going out into the stream," Schaller tells OzarksFirst.com. "Fish are susceptible to ammonia, to their gills, and it was enough to be toxic to them there within a few miles stretch of the plant."
"We figured it had something to do with the sewer plant at Monett because the water smelled like sewer water," resident Patricia Holloway tells the Joplin Globe. "It was too strong to handle. It was enough to make your eyes tear up, it was so bad. This is not a joke. It was that bad."
Tyson Foods, however, is not taking full responsibility just yet. In a statement released last week, spokesman Worth Sparkman said: "We are working cooperatively with city and state officials as they investigate this matter. We are awaiting additional details so we can understand if our operations played a role in what happened."
The incident happened just days after the company agreed to pay a $305,000 fine to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency for spilling 210,000 gallons of chicken sludge into a river in Statesville, North Carolina.
The company was initially only fined $8,375 by the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
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