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Dead Fish Prompt Investigation into Possible Tyson Wastewater Link

PIERCE CITY, Mo. -- Thousands of fish are turning up dead along creek banks in southwest Missouri.
PIERCE CITY, Mo. -- Thousands of fish are turning up dead along creek banks in southwest Missouri.

The Department of Natural Resources is investigating a possible link to a chemical incident last week in Monett involving the Tyson plant that caused an odor to fill the city. Now, there could be more consequences.

Fish have been spotted dead along Clear Creek from Monett to Pierce City. The creek goes right through a park.

Community members in Pierce City say that's one of the reasons they're worried about whatever contamination might be causing the fish fatalities.

Bruce Capps has enjoyed living near Clear Creek for the last six years.

“Our grandkids swim in that creek all the time,” he says. “They fish in there.”

Capps says the name of the creek is usually fitting.

“It's always clear,” he says. “You can see the fish swimming around in the creek.”

But this week is a very different story. Instead of children playing, the creek is the scene of a fish kill investigation.

The whole process got started because people who live along Clear Creek were noticing dead fish popping up all along the bank for miles. And Pierce City residents like Capps have questions.

“What do we have to be concerned about with this creek being the way it is?” asks Capps.

Nathan Recktenwald with the Department of Conservation is one of the experts trying to find answers.

“This is my second time I’ve been down here to count fish,” Recktenwald says. “It's just moved downstream.”

Recktenwald spent Friday in Monett and Tuesday in Pierce City counting lost fish and wondering if a pollutant is causing them to die in mass.
“The fish are really sensitive,” he says. “If they're in the water and something gets in the water, any type of chemical or whatever it is, they can get stressed and die that way.”

An investigation by the Department of Natural Resources shows it could be the chemical Alimet, which may have been introduced into the environment via wastewater sent from Tyson's pretreatment system, according to a statement.

Community members wonder just how many more towns this will impact downstream.

“If it's like this here,” says Capps. “It's going to continue on down the creek.”

The Department of Conservation and the Department of Natural Resources are working together on this investigation.

Scientists from each agency collected samples while at the creek Tuesday.

A Department of Natural Resources representative says a complete report will be completed by next week.

The following is a statement emailed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to KOLR10’s Laura Kennedy:

Hi Laura,

I have a message you’re looking for information on the recent fish kill in Monett.

The department is investigating the incident, which is believed to have been caused by improperly treated or untreated wastewater containing the chemical Alimet. The chemical may have been introduced into the environment via wastewater sent from Tyson’s pretreatment system to Monett’s wastewater treatment facility. The department is conducting a joint investigation with the Missouri Department of Conservation to determine the severity of the release and its environmental impact. The department will continue to monitor the situation to determine appropriate enforcement actions.

We’ll have to wait for water samples to come back from the lab but I should have a complete investigation report for you next week.

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