A fertilizer spill last month in an Iowa river has killed “nearly all the fish in an almost 50-mile stretch of the East Nishnabotna River to the Missouri border,” the Iowa Department of Natural Resources announced.

“On March 11, NEW Cooperative, Inc. in Red Oak notified the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) of a release occurring on-site. Approximately 1,500 tons (265,000 gallons) of liquid nitrogen fertilizer (32% solution) discharged into a drainage ditch, then into the East Nishnabotna River. The release occurred due to an aboveground storage tank valve left open for the weekend,” the news release read.


Cont. from the news release:

Upon learning of the release, DNR staff from the Environmental Field Office worked with the NEW Cooperative staff to stop the release and began cleanup efforts. DNR Fisheries staff began investigating the impacts to the Nishnabotna River.

DNR Fisheries staff documented the fish kill occurring in all 49.8 miles of the East Nishnabotna and Nishnabotna Rivers downstream of the spill. The kill continued in Missouri’s portion of the Nishnabotna River and ended near the confluence with the Missouri River.

DNR Fisheries staff used methods outlined in American Fisheries Society, Special Publication 35, and 571 Iowa Administrative Code Chapter 113 to evaluate the extent of the fish kill and estimate the number of dead fish. The rules and the use of the American Fisheries Society’s methodology are authorized by Iowa Code section 481A.151.

As of March 28th, the Iowa DNR estimated a fish kill count of 749,242.

Minnow Shiner Dace Chub accounted for nearly 708,000 of the fish kill count.

“Cleanup efforts at the NEW Cooperative facility are ongoing. Contaminated soils continue to be removed from the facility and from around a levee west of the facility,” the Iowa DNR noted.

“Last week, the DNR released a report suggesting over half of Iowa’s bodies of water are considered impaired,” We Are Iowa Local 5 News said.


From the Des Moines Register:

State conservation officials have found no living fish in the East Nishnabotna River south of Red Oak — the result of a massive fertilizer spill at a farmers cooperative.

The only living fish were discovered near Hamburg in far southwest Iowa, downstream of where the river joins with the West Nishnabotna, said John Lorenzen, a fisheries biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

However, the handful of surviving carp he saw appeared to be in the process of dying.

“I’ve never dealt with a situation like this before,” Lorenzen said.

He evaluated sections of about 50 river miles over the course of four days to determine the scope of the fish kill. He had not yet fully tallied the estimated number of dead fish on Friday but noted that there were also numerous dead frogs, snakes, mussels and earthworms.

The spill is the result of someone at NEW Cooperative leaving open a hose valve that leaked about 265,000 gallons of liquid nitrogen fertilizer, said Wendy Wittrock, a senior environmental specialist for the DNR.

The leak is believed to have started March 9 and was discovered and stopped by a co-op employee March 11, she said.

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