Manure spill in northwest Iowa kills 2,500 fish in Barry Creek

File photo

SUTHERLAND – About 2,500 fish died Thursday along two miles of Barry Creek in O’Brien County in northwest Iowa after a broken hose released 5,000 gallons of liquid hog manure into the waterway, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The spill occurred when the manure was being transferred between two tanks at a hog operation northeast of Sutherland owned by Doug Streit. Streit said he stepped away from a pump and while he was gone, the hose broke, spilling the manure directly into the creek.

When Streit discovered the illegal manure discharge, he stopped the release and dammed an area above the creek to contain the remaining manure. According to Ken Hessenius, supervisor of the DNR Spencer field office, flows in Barry Creek are too high to permit damming and pumping the creek, so “the fish kill is expected to continue moving downstream.”

By Friday afternoon, the manure had been cleaned up at the site, according to Hessenius, with a pump used to reduce the amount of manure in the stream. He estimated the manure spill will not adversely impact Waterman Creek downstream.

When DNR staff responded to the reported spill Thursday, they detected high ammonia levels in Barry Creek. Ammonia causes stress in fish and can lead to death. The 2,500-fish kill comprised smaller species, including minnows, shiners, stonerollers and chubs, Hessenius said.

Some live fish were also observed in the stream, he said.

“Mr. Streit responded quickly and did the right thing by notifying DNR,” Hessenius said, “but this is why we advise producers to never leave equipment unattended.”

He said the DNR is monitoring the progress of the fish kill and the cleanup, and fisheries staff are conducting a fish kill count. He said the DNR would “seek appropriate enforcement action.”

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