Tinker Creek 7.29.17 HAZMAT Spill Update

July 31, 2017  //  

Tinker Creek fish kill

Questions and answers


Where was the fish kill?


The kill began along a tributary to Tinker Creek in Cloverdale, and continued downstream into Roanoke County. DEQ biologists determined that the downstream extent of the kill was between Clearwater Avenue and Hollins Road in Cloverdale.


What caused the fish kill?


An agricultural-use chemical leaked from a container on the property of Crop Production Services located at 218 Simmons Drive in Cloverdale. Rain washed an estimated 165 gallons of the chemical into Tinker Creek.


What was the chemical?


The chemical, Termix 5301, is a type of surfactant (detergent-like substance) that is added to herbicide and pesticide products before application. The chemical is not a herbicide or a pesticide.


Is the creek safe for residents to use now?


Residents should continue to avoid use of the creek until further notice.


How will you know when the creek is safe for residents to use?


The creek is being monitored for the presence or absence of chemicals. Information will be communicated to residents once the creek is safe for recreation.


Is there an elevated health risk to the public following this leak?


At this time the chemical release has been contained, and there are no reports of public exposure. Only those individuals who came into direct contact with the chemical or were in the immediate area of the creek would have a potentially elevated risk of exposure. State and local agencies continue to monitor the situation.


What should I do if I’m concerned about potential exposure?


The chemical may pose a health risk only at high concentrations. It may be harmful if swallowed or touches the skin; it may cause skin burns and eye damage. If you are concerned about potential exposure, contact your physician, the Poison Control Center (800-222-1222) or the Roanoke City Health Department (540-283-5050).


What caused the container to leak?


The container had a small puncture, about one-third of the way from the bottom of the tank. The cause of the damage to the container is under investigation.


Why were residents told to avoid Tinker Creek?


Early in the incident, the cause of the fish kill was not known. Residents were advised to avoid Tinker Creek out of an abundance of caution and to allow the response and investigation to proceed.


I have a well located close to Tinker Creek. Is my well at risk due to this spill?


Risk to wells along Tinker Creek is extremely low. This is because water in Tinker Creek originates from surface runoff (rain) and from groundwater that discharges from the banks of the creek (seeps). This is how creeks and rivers continue to flow between rain events. Wells are, in general, at greater risk from oil and chemical spills occurring on the land in proximity to the well.


Will I know if my well is impacted? What will happen if my well becomes contaminated?


Unless a well is located close to Tinker Creek and is already impacted by surface water, it should not be affected by this release. Wells that may be affected would be addressed on a case-by-case basis.


How many fish were killed?


Surveys conducted by biologists have not determined yet how many fish were killed. Initial estimates are that the number may be in the tens of thousands. This includes all sizes and types of fish, including sunfish, rock bass and smallmouth bass, large suckers, and many smaller species such as minnows and darters.


What will happen to all the dead fish?


Fish kills, even large ones, occur due to natural causes as well. The fish will begin to decompose and also will float downstream, which likely will lead to several days of unpleasantness along Tinker Creek. However, the stream will recover from the kill and life will return.


Were other animals killed?


Yes, there were dead crayfish. The investigation team will note if any other animals were affected.


How will this chemical be cleaned up?


In the area where the spill occurred, remaining product is being removed and soils contaminated by the product are being excavated and disposed of. The product that entered Tinker Creek is unrecoverable because it mixes with the water. DEQ returned to check the stream on Sunday, July 30, and the foaminess and cloudy appearance caused by the product had almost completely disappeared. Some residual foam may be noticeable in areas where the stream goes over riffles, rapids and dams, as the material mixes with the air and water.


My pet drank/swam in Tinker Creek when there were dead fish present. What should I do?


Where the material was present in the water, the stream exhibited a cloudy appearance and heavy white foam. Bathing with soap and clean water should remove the material from the skin. Pet owners should contact their veterinarians if they have reason to believe the pet was exposed and shows signs of illness. Pets and livestock should never be allowed to drink directly from a stream, as they run a similar risk of contracting illness from untreated surface water as humans do.


Who is responsible for cleanup? 


The company accepted responsibility for the release and hired a hazardous materials cleanup contractor. All of the recoverable material and contaminated water and soil that were identified was removed by the contractor before the end of the day on Saturday. Other areas have been sampled, and additional cleanup will be done if the material is found elsewhere.


What is DEQ doing now and in the future?


DEQ will continue to focus on water quality monitoring and overseeing the cleanup. DEQ may determine that enforcement action is appropriate as the investigation proceeds.


What other agencies are involved with the situation and what are their roles?


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for assessment of damages to natural resources and the presence of federally listed threatened and endangered species.


What are the long-term impacts?

Where the material was present in the water, the stream exhibited a cloudy appearance and moderate to heavy white foam. DEQ checked the stream at more than a dozen locations, from near the mouth at the Roanoke River, to above the confluence with the impacted tributary at Route 11 in Cloverdale. At almost all locations, the appearance of the stream had returned to normal for this time of year. Once the material is diluted and flushed downstream, no long-term impacts to the stream are anticipated. It ultimately may take several years to return to normal, but the stream will recover and aquatic life will repopulate the affected areas.

Be ready. Be willing to help.

Virginia Disaster Relief Fund