ODFW: 1,000 fish killed by fertilizer spill

Dead fish are seen in the McCarthy Creek Tributary near Cornelius Pass one day after a truck spilled a tanker-full of liquid fertilizer nearby. (July 11, 2013. Report It - Sean and Bruce Penney)
Dead fish are seen in the McCarthy Creek Tributary near Cornelius Pass one day after a truck spilled a tanker-full of liquid fertilizer nearby. (July 11, 2013. Report It - Sean and Bruce Penney)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — One day after approximately 2,400 gallons of liquid fertilizer leaked from a rolled-over semi-truck, more than 1,000 animals in the nearby McCarthy Creek Tributary has died.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife was at the scene Thursday near NW Cornelius Pass Road between Highway 30 and NW Skyline Boulevard. So far fish, newts and salamanders have been found dead. The deaths are limited to aquatic life.

7-11-13-dead salamanders
These two dead salamanders are among the more than 1,000 animals in McCarthy Creek Tributary that died in the day following a roughly 2,400-gallon liquid fertilizer spill from a rolled-over semi-truck. (KOIN 6 News, Ellen Hansen)

“It’s very disappointing to see all these dead fish,” said neighbor Sean Penney, eying the tributary near his home off Cornelius Pass Road. “The fertilizer is depleting the oxygen from the water which kills the fish, so it’s a mess.”

The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife calculates more than 1,000 fish killed as a result of this spill.

The trucking company responsible, Wilco Farms, released this statement Wednesday night:

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of any fish at the site and are committed to working with the DEQ and ODFW until it is all cleaned up.”

7-11-13-tanker rollover
This tanker-trailer carrying liquid fertilizer rolled over and spilled some of its contents at the corner of NW 8th Avenue and NW Cornelius Pass Road July 10, 2013. (KOIN 6 News/Dean Barron)

The dead aquatic life follows a tanker truck crash around 11:40 a.m. Wednesday on the road above the McCarthy Creek Tributary. The truck took a steep curve on Cornelius Pass Road near 8th Avenue and rolled onto its side. The crash cracked the tanker — leaking fertilizer onto the road and the soil lining the road’s shoulder.

The fertilizer was initially determined by officials to not pose a serious health risk.

Doug Hoffman, the CEO of Wilco Farms, said they called the ODFW and the Department of Environmental Quality to make sure the clean-up was done correctly.

“The tanker was hauling Solution 32, a liquid commonly used as an agricultural fertilizer,” Hoffman said in a note to KOIN 6 News. “While the liquid fertilizer is labeled as non-hazardous, in concentrated amounts it poses short-term dangers to fish and wildlife.”

The company, based in the Oregon town of Mt. Angel, plans to continue monitoring the site over the future days.

“We have two private cleanup companies involved,” Hoffman wrote, “and have already cleaned up a large portion of the spill.”

On a related note, the driver was examined by medical personnel after the crash. Hoffman told KOIN 6 News the driver is fine, though he does have “a slight bump on the head.”

DEQ officials assure neighbors like Penney the liquid fertilizer is not hazardous to humans. But that’s little consolation to the aquatic life lost in the area.

Neighbors also told KOIN 6 News that overturned trucks like this have become all too common on this stretch of NW Cornelius Pass Road.

“It’s disturbing to see all these dead fish,” Penney said. “But more disturbing, I know these roads aren’t going to be fixed.”

NW Cornelius Pass Road was shut down for about 28 hours until finally re-opening one lane late Thursday afternoon.

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