Fines Levied For Fish Kill, Water Contamination
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Fish and Boat Commission announced this week that it has reached a mutual agreement with local dairy farm operators responsible for allowing “tens of thousands of gallons” of slurry manure to spill into Big Cove Creek last November.
In a press release issued on Monday, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) reported Mr. and Mrs. Lamar Hege and brother Glenn Hege will have to vacate the Ayr Township farm they lease south of Mc- Connellsburg effective May 1. In addition, the Hege family will also be required to cease agricultural operations through the consent order and agreement.
“Given an option, the Heges chose to cease farming operations and vacate the McConnellsburg site rather than perform major upgrades needed to bring the facility into compliance,” said DEP South-central Regional Director Rachel Diamond. “As part of the agreement, the Heges developed and must now implement an interim manure management plan for this farm, as well as develop and implement comprehensive nutrient management and agricultural erosion control plans for a farm they lease in southern Huntington County.”
Farms in Pennsylvania that conduct plowing or tilling activities are required to have written erosion and sedimentation plans. Those that generate, store and/or apply manure are required to have written manure management plans, Diamond said.
Based on the terms of the agreement, the Heges have also paid a total of $12,920 to date to the two state agencies. The fines were broken down into a $10,000 penalty to the Clean Water Fund and a $2,920 fine to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC).
During the joint investigation, Fulton County Conservation District employee Doug Valentine said the manure was found to have flowed from the Hege farm and into a channel that emptied into Big Cove Creek, thereby polluting waterways and killing a large number of fish. As a result of the discovery, PFBC Waterways Conservation Officer (WCO) Anthony Quarracino was called to the farm during the late morning hours of November 3, 2009, at the request of Fulton County Conservation District officials.
At that time, Quarracino informed the “News” all indications pointed to the manure storage pit on the Hege farm, which he referred to as an “earthen depression,” as the origin of the “moderate pollution.”
Quarracino further stated his investigation took him to the bridge of Back Run Road, where he detected a strong odor of manure and found the water to be a dark chocolate-brown color. The officer’s investigation included videos and photographs of the area, a dead fish count and a GPS calculation that revealed 4.48 miles of stream were polluted between the Hege farm to the bridge located near Harr’s Grocery.
A total of 606 dead fish were accounted for during the dead fish tally and were categorized for record-keeping purposes by size and type. Most of the fish were minnows, suckers, carp, various game fish and two rain-