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A significant fish kill occurred in a 50-mile stretch of the East Nishnabotna River near the Missouri border in Iowa due to a fertilizer spill from NEW Cooperative, Inc. in Red Oak. The spill, which involved 1,500 tons of liquid nitrogen fertilizer being released into the river, was caused by an open valve on an above-ground storage tank. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported that the fish kill affected the entire stretch of the river downstream of the spill, resulting in the death of over 749,000 fish, with minnows, shiners, dace, and chubs being the most impacted species.

Ongoing investigations are being conducted to assess the impact of the fertilizer release on other aquatic life in the river. Under Iowa state codes, a permit is required to discharge pollutants into a river, and the DNR is working with its legal department to determine the appropriate enforcement and restitution for the loss of aquatic life due to the spill. Ammonia levels in the river have shown a decline according to recent field tests, but the DNR continues to advise against engaging in recreational activities on the river or consuming dead fish found in or near the water.

The spill involved a large quantity of liquid nitrogen fertilizer entering the East Nishnabotna River through a drainage ditch, eventually impacting the entire river downstream. The spill encompassed nearly 50 miles of the river and extended into Missouri’s portion of the Nishnabotna River before abating near the junction with the Missouri River. Fish species were severely affected by the spill, with the most notable impact seen on minnows, shiners, dace, and chubs. The extent of the ecological damage caused by the spill is still being evaluated by authorities.

NEW Cooperative, Inc. in Red Oak reported the spill to the Iowa DNR on March 11, after discovering that an above-ground storage tank valve had been left open over the weekend, leading to the release of the liquid nitrogen fertilizer into the river. The DNR is working diligently to determine the cause of the spill, the repercussions on aquatic life and the environment, and the necessary steps for enforcement and restitution in accordance with state regulations. As investigations continue, the DNR is closely monitoring the ammonia levels in the river and advising caution for individuals to avoid any interactions with the affected waterway.

Efforts to assess the impact of the fertilizer spill on the river’s ecosystem are underway, with a focus on understanding the full extent of the harm caused to aquatic life in the East Nishnabotna River. The spill has prompted concerns about the environmental consequences of such incidents and highlighted the importance of proper storage and management of hazardous materials to prevent similar occurrences in the future. The DNR’s collaboration with its legal department seeks to address the spill from both regulatory and restitutive perspectives, aiming to ensure accountability for the loss of aquatic life and the ecological disruption caused by the fertilizer release.

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