Fishkill linked to egg-laying operation

HARRIS, Iowa -- Sunrise Farms, located south of Harris, is said to be the source of a large fishkill west of the Iowa city of Spencer. According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the agency's investigation of an 18-mile fishkill on Sto...


HARRIS, Iowa - Sunrise Farms, located south of Harris, is said to be the source of a large fishkill west of the Iowa city of Spencer.

According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the agency’s investigation of an 18-mile fishkill on Stony Creek in Osceola and Clay counties has been traced back to the egg layer facility. A tank that contained egg washing liquid at Sunrise Farms was dumped into a corn field and flowed into Stony Creek. The amount of liquid released had not been determined as of Friday.

Iowa DNR says the fishkill, which included minnows and chubs as well as a few larger fish, extended a little more than 18 miles and killed a total of 163,001 fish valued at $25,806. Environmental specialists from the Iowa DNR were able to detect high ammonia levels along several sampling points on the stream during the investigation. The fish kill was originally reported by a local resident near Everly, Iowa last week.

Kevin Baskins, with Iowa DNR, said the fact Sunrise Farms had exposure to avian bird flu is not a threat to residents in the area.

“We checked immediately with the state veterinarian, David Schmitt of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, when this incident occurred,” Baskins said, “Dr. Schmitt said that according to all information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), high path avian influenza would survive less than seven days at 68 degrees Fahrenheit, which we’ve obviously had since April. In addition, the egg wash water has disinfectant that deactivates viruses and bacteria.”


Likewise, Baskins added that the contaminant in Stony Creek is not likely to affect local drinking water.

“Whatever material was in Stony Creek appeared to have been diluted out by the time it reached the Ocheyedan River in Spencer,” Baskins said. “The only danger to people would be if they drank untreated water directly from the creek, and even then there might be other naturally occurring organisms in the water unrelated to the spill that could make them sick such as bacteria.”

The fishkill remains under investigation by the DNR, and the appropriate enforcement actions are under consideration.

“At this point we do not yet know what, if any, enforcement actions will be taken against Sunrise because there is still investigation going on,” Baskins said. “If people witness a fish kill, they should call their local field office or call the DNR’s spill hotline at (515) 725-8694.”

Sunrise Farms issued the following press release Monday afternoon regarding the incident.

“On Friday, October 2, 2015, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources issued a press release stating that their specialists were able to detect elevated ammonia levels at several sampling points on Stony Creek.

“The specialists believe the ammonia levels contributed to a fish kill that was reported earlier in the week. The report states that specialists have traced their findings back to Sunrise Farms. Sunrise Farms is assisting and cooperating with the Iowa Department of Natural Resource’s efforts on this matter. We have no additional comment at this time as the investigation is ongoing.”

The last fishkill reported in Stony Creek occurred in August 2006, when heavy rains in the area washed manure into the stream. Three additional kills were reported in the area at the time. Approximately 15,308 fish with an estimated value of $6,567.17 were killed during that incident.

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