Cleanup of an accidental discharge from a J-M Farms pipeline into Tar Creek is underway after the contamination caused the waterway to turn nearly black and resulted in a large fish kill.
MIAMI – The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry (ODAFF) has confirmed local reports of a contaminating spill into Tar Creek which resulted in dark waters and a massive fish kill.
A large swath of the Tar Creek in Miami, still contaminated and unsafe from lead and zinc mining waste out of the Tar Creek Superfund site, remained a murky, near black through part of Saturday following an accidental discharge from a broken coupling on a J-M Farms water collection pipe.
The discharge, initially reported to and investigated by the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ), was handed over to the oversight of ODAFF once J-M Farms was identified as the probable source as the company is designated an agricultural operation.
J-M Farms is mushroom grower based in Miami and licensed through ODAFF for its compost yard runoff water holding ponds.
Jeremy Seiger, ODAFF Divison Director for Agricultural Environmental Management Services (AEMS), confirmed Monday that his agency was notified Friday, June 22 by ODEQ of a significant discharge into Tar Creek which resulted in a large fish kill and that the spill had since been identified and halted.
Seiger said he could not specify the exact start date of the spill, only when AMES was notified of the incident, that cleanup efforts were underway and the discharge currently under investigation.
Calls to ODEQ about the initial report on the incident were not returned as of press time Monday.
Inquiries to J-M Farms returned a response from Growing Operations Manager Scott Engelbrecht who provided the following press release:
"At approximately 6:35 pm on Friday, June 22, 2018, we were notified by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture that there had been a large fish kill on Tar Creek and that they had reason to believe that the source of the contaminant may be coming from our facility. We met with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture field agent assigned to the incident and performed a walk-through of our water collection system. During the walk-through, it was discovered that we had a broken coupling on a collection water transfer pipe that had been leaking into a waterway that fed into Tar Creek. The last known time that this transfer line had been in use was on June 16, 2018.
We immediately took steps to prevent any future flow into Tar Creek by creating an earthen dam at the mouth of the contaminated waterway where it feeds into the creek. Since that time, we have removed in excess of 60,000 gallons of contaminated water from the waterway and returned it to our holding ponds. We are working closely with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture to ensure that all of the necessary steps are taken to thoroughly prevent additional contamination.
The contaminated water originated from our compost yard runoff water holding ponds. This water contains concentrated nutrients but contains no pesticides or other chemicals. Under the direction of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, we have taken water quality samples from the waterway and will continue to do so until we are confident the contamination has been eliminated.
J-M Farms is a local, family-owned business that is heavily invested in the Miami and Northeast Oklahoma. We take pride in our record of being environmental stewards, from being a large recycler of many agricultural by-products to being a partner in many local mine reclamation projects through the use of our spent mushroom compost. We are committed to ensuring that Tar Creek is returned to the same level of health as it was before this unfortunate incident."
Dorothy Ballard is the managing news editor for the Miami News-record. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @dm_ballard.