Volume 104, Number 32 - August 9, 2007
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Spill was by aircraft
The Green River is safe, and environmentalagencies are drawing closer to uncovering the source of the pesticide spill that polluted the river two weeks ago and killed 300 fish.
The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) revealed last Thursday that lab tests confirmed the chemical spilled across 73 feet of the Green River was the insecticide malathion, used in residential gardens and crop fields for mosquito control. Although the substance can endanger humans in excessive amounts, investigators from the Department of Agriculture, which is looking into the spill with the DEQ and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said that it doesn’t appear that any of the highly biodegradable product remains in the river.
The insecticide dissipated before reaching drinking water supplies or accumulating in the food chain, so people can safely eat fish from downstream of the spill site, use the water for irrigation and allow livestock to drink there.
The agencies are confident that the product was released by aircraft, said Hank Uhden, manager of technical services for the Department of Agriculture.
“We do have evidence leading to the cause and who is likely to be the individual (who spilled the chemical),” Uhden said. The Department of Agriculture sent requests for information to the suspected individual through certified mail this week, with “definitive timelines for response,” Uhden said, though wouldn’t reveal the suspected source of the spill.
The agencies expect to produce a final report identifying who is responsible for the illegal chemical discharge by the end of next week.
At that time, the Department of Agriculture will determine how to penalize the individual through the Attorney General’s office.
Typically such violations of state statute are considered misdemeanors, Uhden said, with penalties of up to a $500 fine, a year in jail, or both.
Uhden said the Department of Agriculture has a “degree of an idea” of how much chemical was spilled, based on riverbank soil samples and the rate at which the chemical dissolved, but investigators won’t determine an exact figure until they discover how much chemical was transported, as well as weather conditions at the time of the spill. “We need to look at everything and make sure we have every avenue covered,” Uhden said. “We can’t rush this. If you need to build a case, you need to do it correctly.”
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