Chemical Fire Runoff Kills Thousands of Fish in Midstate Creek

Posted in: United States Water News, Water Contamination
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A dead carp sits along the shore of the Conewago Creek in Reading Township, Adams County.
(Photo credit: Shane Dunlap/The Evening Sun)

Article courtesy of Tim Lambert and the Hanover Evening Sun | June 12, 2015 | witf | Shared as educational material

Restrictions are in place along a midstate creek where nitrates were released into the water after an Adams County fertilizer business caught fire earlier this week.

So far, an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 fish have been killed in the Conewago Creek.

Acquatic life is suffocating due to the heavy concentration of nitrates, twhich are not toxic to humans.

Gary Bullock, the emergency management coordinator for Reading Township in Adams County,tells the Hanover Evening Sun the damage is stunning.

” I can compare it to nothing,” he says. We’ve never had a fish kill of this magnitude.”

Bullock says the ecosystem has been severely damaged.

“Because the small fish that the bass feed on have been killed to a greater extent than the larger fish,” he says. “As far as the food chain goes, the minnows are the lowest thing and then the bass.”

Carol Woolcock, who has lived near the creek for 30 years, says she’s concerned about the situation.

“First of all, we were trying to figure out what would have cause it, because we’ve never seen anything like this before,” she says. “Our other thought was, ‘Is there something in the water that’s going to affect our well?'”

“We’ve never seen anything even close to this. A few dead fish, once in awhile will float down stream. But, we’ve never seen anything like this. Not in the numbers and the volume that it is.”

Adams County is prohibiting swimming, fishing or boating in the creek where it runs through six townships and boroughs, while  York County recommends avoiding those activities in eight municipalities bordering the creek.

The contamination, which is expected to move downstream toward the Susquehanna River, occured in the wake of Monday’s fire at Miller Chemical and Fertilizer Plant in Conewago Township, Adams County.

The following municipalies along the Conewago Creek are affected in York and Adams counties:
York County:
Paradise Township
Dover Township
Washington Township
Warrington Township
Conewago Township
Newberry Township
East Manchester Township
York Haven
East Berlin
Adams County:
Hamilton Township
Mt. Pleasant Township
New Oxford
Oxford Township
Reading Township
(Photo credit: witf)

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