Extent of damage uncertain from manure spill

April 04, 2002|BY RICHARD F. BELISLE

CRYSTAL SPRING, Pa. - State and local officials said Wednesday they were still assessing the damage from a manure spill at a 2,000-head, Fulton County hog barn last weekend that polluted a tributary of Brush Creek.

So far no fish have turned up dead in Brush Creek, a high quality, stocked trout stream.

The tributary was clearing up by Tuesday, mostly because weekend rains diluted the pollution, officials said.

Investigators said the manure spilled over a 770,000-gallon concrete pit beneath the barn owned by Steve and Denise Fowler on Hanks Road in Crystal Spring. The farm has been in operation for four years.

The owners could not be reached for comment.

Sara Wuertenberg, head of the Fulton County Soil Conservation District, said the amount of manure that overflowed before the spill was reported Friday was unknown.


"There's no way to determine it," she said.

Wuertenberg will return to the farm today with state Department of Environmental Protection officials, including nutrient management and water quality specialists, she said.

The DEP sent in a clean-up contractor under an environmental clean-up provision of the law. Trenches were dug around the pit to catch any overflow, officials said.

State regulations require operators of concrete manure storage pits to keep the level no higher than 1 foot from the top, officials said.

The State Fish and Boat Commission, the Fulton County Emergency Management Agency, Brush Creek Township Supervisors and the township's sewage enforcement officer are involved in the case.

Owners of wells in the area are being urged to have their water tested for possible pollution from the spill, DEP spokeswoman Karen Sitler said.

"We took samples from the Fowlers' well because it's only 20 feet from the pit," Sitler said.

She said Fowler should have had the pit pumped out.

"It was poor management practice," Sitler said. "It's a violation of Pennsylvania's clean stream law."

George Geisler, regional manager of law enforcement for the Fish and Boat Commission, told the Associated Press the environmental damage could be significant and the spill might prevent stocking of Brush Creek.

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