UPDATE: More than 104,000 fish killed following manure overflow - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UPDATE: More than 104,000 fish killed following manure overflow

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Dubuque County Supervisor Wayne Demmer's open lot cattle and hog operation Dubuque County Supervisor Wayne Demmer's open lot cattle and hog operation
Dubuque County supervisor Wayne Demmer is the second- of a three-generation farm. Dubuque County supervisor Wayne Demmer is the second- of a three-generation farm.
DUBUQUE COUNTY (KWWL) -

The Iowa Department of Natural resources says more than 104,000 fish died after heavy rains caused the overflow of a manure pit.

The DNR says the manure came from an open lot hog and cattle operation owned and run by Wayne Demmer, who is on the Dubuque County Board of Supervisors.  The overflow reached Whitewater Creek, south of Highway 20 between Peosta and Epworth, on June 18.

The DNR says dead fish were found along 17.9 miles of the creek, but most of them were killed within the first five miles downstream from Demmer's farm.

The DNR says 21 different species were killed.  They value the fish at more than $96,000.

The DNR can seek restitution for the cost of the fish that were killed and take additional enforcement action against Demmer.

KWWL spoke to Demmer on the phone on Monday, but his attorneys have advised him not to comment on the incident until the DNR has completed its investigation.

Manure is high in ammonia, which is what poisons the fish if it gets in the water.

Tom McCarthy is an environmental specialist with the Iowa DNR field office in Manchester. He traced the fish kill back to Demmer's open lot hog and cattle operation after examining the creek.

"We checked feed lots and wastewater treatment plants, and we checked all the different sources of contamination," McCarthy said. "Ruled out all the different tributaries, looked at the trail of dead fish."

McCarthy said Demmer told him the sewage reception pit on his open lot system overflowed, due to heavy rain.

McCarthy said Demmer "realized it was getting full but thought he had some extra time and unfortunately made an error there."

Neighbors KWWL contacted downstream of Demmer's operation declined to go on camera, but they said they had no bad feelings toward Demmer. Neighbors said they found dead fish on their property along the creek.

Dan Kirby is a natural resource biologist with the Iowa DNR. He said the creek will eventually completely flush out, due to rainfall and flow, but the fish will take longer to repopulate, as some of those found dead were several years old.

DNR officials remind farmers to regularly check their sewage systems, as it doesn't take very much run-off to have a devastating impact on the fish population.

McCarthy said he's not sure when the final report will be complete, but when it is, officials will pass it up to those who decide what legal actions to take, if any.

Kirby said 104,000 fish is a fairly significant kill, though it doesn't come close to the state's largest. That happened in 2001 in Kossuth County, when an anhydrous ammonia pipe broke, killing 49 combined miles of stream and river and killing an estimated 1.3 million fish.

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