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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published July 28 2010

Discharge of manure from NDSU barn may have killed fish

Authorities are investigating an accidental discharge of manure at a North Dakota State University dairy barn that may have caused a fish kill in a nearby drainage ditch.

Greg Lardy, NDSU’s head of animal sciences, said a pump malfunctioned at the facility on 19th Avenue North between 3 a.m. Saturday and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, causing cow manure to enter a drainage area.

The drainage area meets with Ditch 10, which runs along the west side of Hector International Airport and drains into the Red River north of Fargo.

The situation was brought to the attention of authorities at 11:50 a.m. Sunday by a citizen who reported seeing dead fish and smelling animal waste.

Jason Scott, Fargo district game warden with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, investigated on Sunday and counted 102 dead fish in the drainage ditch between County Road 20 and County Road 31.

The fish ranged from 6-inch carp to 8-inch white suckers and minnows, Scott said.

Once NDSU officials learned of the malfunction, they immediately shut down the pump and made arrangements for the waste to be cleaned up, Lardy said.

Workers from Jet-Way Industrial Cleaning Services arrived at the scene at 6 a.m. Monday, he said.

“We’re certainly very concerned about this incident,” Lardy said. “We’re doing everything we can to get it cleaned up to ensure there are no further discharges.”

The volume of waste discharged is unknown at this point, Lardy said.

The North Dakota Department of Health is investigating and will meet with NDSU officials today.

“It did not affect the Red River. This was just in the ditch,” said Mike Hargiss, who works in the Fargo field office of the Department of Health.

It’s unclear if the manure caused the fish kill.

Hargiss said the fish likely died due to low dissolved oxygen levels in the water.

“It appears to be caused by the release of the ag waste; that’s what it appears to be,” Hargiss said.

However, there are indications that the fish could have been dead before the NDSU pump malfunctioned, said Dennis Fewless, director of the water quality division for the Department of Health.

The dead fish were not floating on the water but higher up in the ditch, Scott reported.

How the pump malfunctioned is still being investigated.

Lardy said there were problems with a pump at the dairy barn and a temporary pump was installed Friday afternoon.

The waste is regularly pumped into a designated lagoon along the railroad tracks on 19th Avenue North.

This is the first time such an incident has occurred, Lardy said.

Fewless said the situation appears to be accidental and not due to negligence. NDSU officials have been responsive, he said.

“Our main goal is to get the problem corrected so it doesn’t happen again,” Fewless said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590