Tag: Black Warrior River

Putting a Price Tag on a Fish Kill

WBHM

At about 10:30 a.m. on a recent Monday in Walker County, Martha Salomaa parks her white pick-up truck, walks to the edge of a parking lot and points to the river below, the Mulberry Fork.

“And so the plant, it’s in Hanceville, which is 28 to 30 miles upstream from here,” she says.

Salomaa is referring to the Tyson Foods Inc. chicken rendering plant. That’s where an estimated 220,000 gallons of partially treated wastewater emptied into this section of the Black Warrior River on June 6th.

“So by June 10th, you could see hundreds of fish, like floating by, either dead or dying,” Salomaa says.

According to state officials, it was Alabama’s largest fish kill in recent years. And Salomaa, who is president of the Walker County conservation group Sipsey Heritage Commission (SHC), said the spill didn’t just kill fish, it contaminated the river with high levels of bacteria. In the days following the incident, SHC and the Black Warrior Riverkeeper found unsafe levels of E. coli almost 30 miles downstream from the site of the spill.

As a result, the Sipsey Heritage Commission cancelled its annual kayak race, scheduled for mid-June, and Salomaa said residents avoided the water for several weeks.

“You know, like, this river is a way of life,” Salomaa said. “You can’t, you just cannot put a price on that.”

But state agencies are tasked with putting a price on it. Read more.