Manure spills cause fish kills in northern Iowa

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DES MOINES, Iowa — The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced two large manure spills Wednesday in northern Iowa.

According to the DNR, Bernie Baker of Rock Bottom Dairy in Lyon County reported spilling “several hundred thousand gallons of manure” Wednesday after an irrigation unit became stuck.

The liquid manure flowed through fields, including some with cover crops or pasture, to reach a tributary of Mud Creek and then flowed into Mud Creek, which lies in the Rock River watershed.

Slow flow rates caused the manure-laden water to move slowly downstream, the DNR said. Many dead fish, including bullheads, minnows and chubs, when DNR field staff arrived about 3:20 p.m.

The department recommended that livestock producers who depend upon Mud Creek as a water source to check stream conditions for the next few days while DNR staff work with Rock Bottom Dairy to get the spill stopped.

The DNR said will monitor the cleanup, and fisheries staff will assess the extent of the fish kill on Thursday. Appropriate enforcement actions will be considered, the DNR said.

A second large manure spill occurred Wednesday afternoon in Lotts Creek, about two miles northeast of West Bend in Kossuth County, where Precision Pumping, a commercial manure application company, was land applying manure through an umbilical rig when a hose came off the pump.

The hose flopped into the creek, and “an estimated 10,000 gallons of manure” spilled into the creek before the applicator could shut down the pump, the DNR said.

A large number of dead and dying fish were found in the creek, according to DNR staff, who expect the fish kill to be ongoing as the slug of manure moves downstream.

Lotts Creek flows into the East Fork of the Des Moines River about 10 miles downstream of the spill. The creek’s high banks, wide channel and swift flow make recovering the manure impractical, the DNR said.

“While not insignificant, the spill is not expected to impact downstream water supplies,” the department said.

The DNR said that fisheries staff will be onsite Thursday to count dead fish, and environmental specialists who collected water samples for testing will return Thursday to monitor the situation.

Appropriate enforcement action will be considered, the DNR said.

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