From: Associated Press
Published August 15, 2005 12:00 AM

Three Million Gallons of Liquid Manure Spill into Upstate New York River after Leak at Farm

LOWVILLE, N.Y. — Three million gallons of liquid manure spilled from a dairy farm and into a nearby river, creating a smelly flow that was blamed for the deaths of thousands of fish.


The toxic tide had traveled some 20 miles on the Black River by Friday and was expected to flow past Watertown, a city of 25,000, which shut off its water intake.


Farmers in this dairy-intensive county were warned not to let their cows drink from the river, and emergency officials were trying Friday to flush out the contamination by increasing the flow from the Beaver River, which feeds the Black River.


The process could take a week or two, said Jim Martin, Lewis County's emergency manager.


"If we get some good rain over the weekend, it's going to help a lot. If it stays hot and dry, it's going to stay a while," Martin said.


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The manure spilled from a lagoon at the large Marks Farms late Wednesday or early Thursday when an earthen wall blew out, sending the liquid into a drainage ditch and then into the river, Martin said.


State officials estimated the manure had killed thousands of fish, including perch, bass, catfish, shiners and walleye.


The state health department was monitoring the manure. No human illnesses had been reported, Martin said.


Michael Fraser of the state Department of Environmental Conservation said no charges had been filed against the farm owners as of Friday. The agency was investigating the spill.


The farm, about 5 miles south of Lowville, is owned by David and Jacquelyn Peck and William Marks, according to federal records. A woman answering the phone there Friday said the owners were not speaking to reporters.


Steven Fuller, who owns a riverside restaurant in Lowville, said his restaurant had many cancellations Thursday. "The smell is your typical dairy air, you might say," he said.


Watertown can draw from a 60 million gallon reserve supply of water through the weekend, if need be, said Brian Gaffney, the city's treatment plant operator.


The spill was expected to reach Lake Ontario in coming days.


"The farther down it flows, the more its going to get diluted and the less harm it will do," Martin said.


Source: Associated Press


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