Massive fish kill in Mulberry Fork River under investigation (img: WBMA)
by Stoney Sharp, WBMA, ABC 3340
CULLMAN COUNTY, Ala. — The river park is one of Martha Salomaa’s favorite spots in the small town of Sipsey.
“People come to fish. They recreate here. People eat these fish,” the Sipsey native explained.
Now, the fish that call Sipsey Fork River home are in danger. ABC 33/40 News found hundreds of dead fish floating in the water.
“We’ve been to various access points. Up the river, more towards Mulberry Fork in Hanceville there’s quite a collection of dead fish in the brush,” Salomaa explained.
According to Alabama’s Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, early reports show up to 800,000 gallons of waste water spilled from the Tyson Farms Inc. River Valley Ingredients plant in Hanceville on Thursday. The bad water poured into the Mulberry Fork River before moving downstream to the Sipsey Fork River. Monday, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management released the following statement:
The Department has conducted water quality testing downstream of the release. In addition, the Department has been in contact with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) which is assessing the extent of the fish kill, and will be providing its report to the Department. The Department has also been in contact with the facility regarding their response to the release. ADEM is in the process of gathering all of the information and reviewing the data that has been collected. Recent water quality data obtained by ADEM indicates that the dissolved oxygen has improved in Mulberry Fork since the release.
The Black Warrior Riverkeeper told ABC 33/40 News, in 2016, the same facility (then operated by American Proteins, Inc.) was fined for killing 40,000 fish after 900 gallons of acid spilled into the river.
“This facility seems to have issues with infrastructure, maintenance and upkeep so they keep having these so called accidents. A $19,000 fine isn’t even a slap on the wrist,” said Riverkeeper Nelson Brooke.
Tyson Foods said Thursday’s spill was caused by pipe failure. In an abundance of caution, they’re asking the public to avoid recreating in the Mulberry Fork River until further notice.
We deeply regret the incident on the Mulberry Fork, near Hanceville, Alabama. We are working to make things right, and have an environmental contractor onsite and in the waterways, actively working on clean-up and the collection of fish impacted by this incident. Our core values include serving as stewards of the environment — in Alabama and every community where we operate — and we take that obligation seriously. Our focus is to deal with the issue at hand, so it’s too early to speculate on our longer-term remediation efforts, but we want the community to know we will be considering several opportunities.