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State: 10K-plus fish killed in Conewago Creek from chemical-plant fire contamination

LIZ EVANS SCOLFORO
YorkDispatch

At least 10,000 fish have been killed in a section of the Conewago Creek near the location of a massive chemical-plant fire in Adams County, according to two state spokesmen, and the public is being warned not to be on or in the water.

John Repetz, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said there's no doubt it was runoff from battling the blaze that contaminated the creek.

Hanover-area fire officials estimated they used 3.8 million gallons of water at Miller Chemical fertilizer plant, according to Repetz.

The water ran into an adjacent farm field, then into Slagle's Run, which feeds into the Conewago Creek, he said. It also seeped over to a nearby power substation, he said.

Miller Chemical will be do excavation work on the field and swale there in an effort to keep any more water from getting into Slagle's Run, according to Repetz.

He called that a temporary solution.

Stopping the flow: Once the source of contamination into the run is stopped, the water quality will begin to improve, he said.

"Mother Nature does a great job of flushing (contaminants) out," Repetz said.

He said it's not yet known what the long-term impact will be, or if the impact will be solely short-term.

"It's a pretty big area that's been impacted," Repetz said.

People who have properly constructed, properly cased wells shouldn't have any problem with water contamination, he said, "even if they live along the creek."

It's not yet known what chemicals contaminated the water, and DEP is awaiting more test results, according to Repetz. He said discoloration in the creek was caused by dyes in some of the chemicals.

Fish kill: The state Fish & Boat Commission estimates at least 10,000 fish were killed by the contamination, according to spokesman Eric Levis.

"It's a big fish kill," he said. "We've seen dead fish for a 10 to 15 mile span."

A waterways conservation officer spent Wednesday at the site investigating, he said.

"For now our officer will be trying to do an estimate of how many fish have been killed, the length of fish kill, identifying the species that were killed and talking to witnesses ... about what they observed," Levis said.

Officials from both York County and the Fish & Boat Commission are urging people to avoid sections of the Conewago Creek that are downstream of the fish kill.

Stay out of water: York County commissioners caution people not to fish, boat or swim in the certain sections of the creek until further notice, according to county spokesman Carl Lindquist.

Those areas are where the Conewago Creek flows through Paradise, Dover, Washington, Warrington, Conewago, Newberry and East Manchester townships, as well as through York Haven.

John Eline, Adams County's director of emergency services, said his office has been told it could take a week or so for the contaminants to either wash downstream or dissipate.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com.