UPDATE: The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has released updated mass mortality event numbers. As of August 7, 2017, the Tinker Creek fish kill — caused by the Termix 5301 chemical spill — exceeded 40,000 fish. Dead fish recovered included sunfish, bass, darters, minnows, bullhead catfish, and others.
Originally published August 2, 2017:
This past weekend, after sudsy water and dead fish were found in Tinker Creek near Roanoke, Virginia, residents were being urged not to have contact with or ingest creek water. According to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, a fish kill — tens of thousands of fish — occurred along a tributary to Tinker Creek in Cloverdale VA, and continued downstream into Roanoke County.
Not only were thousands of dead fish spotted, but dead crayfish and other wildlife. US Fish and Wildlife Service is assessing damages to natural resources, and any area threatened or endangered species.
The chemical spill’s cause was found to a leaking, punctured container on the property of Crop Production Services in Cloverdale. The chemical was identified as Termix 5301, a detergent-like substance added to herbicides/pesticides. An estimated 165 gallons of the chemical washed into nearby Tinker Creek. See more about Termix on the Huntsman Global Products site here (PDF), which states that the Termix products are not regulated by the US EPA.
Health officials are urging residents to avoid use of the creek until further notice. No humans, pets, or livestock/bees should drink from a stream.
The creek is being monitored for the presence, or absence, of chemicals. Residents will be informed once the creek is safe for recreation again. The cloudiness has dissipated, and the water looks normal as the chemical has washed downstream. Still, it may take several years to return to normal, and for aquatic life to repopulate the affected areas.
Officials have advised local residents that wells, except potentially those located close to Tinker Creek and impacted by surface water, should be unaffected. Wells that may be affected would be addressed as they arise.
Residents concerned about potential exposure are being urged to contact their doctor or their pet’s veterinarian, the Poison Control Center at 800.222.1222, or the Roanoke City Health Department at 540.283.5050.
According to state officials, the company has accepted responsibility for the release and hired a hazardous materials cleanup contractor. In the area where the spill occurred, remaining product is being removed and contaminated soils are being excavated for disposal. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will continue to focus on water quality monitoring and overseeing the cleanup. The DEQ may determine that enforcement action is appropriate as the investigation proceeds.