Three Million Gallons of Liquid Manure Spill into Upstate River
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Three Million Gallons of Liquid Manure Spill into Upstate River

[Editor's note: This is an accident of greed. If we didn't exploit animals, we would never encounter a situation like this.]

August 11, 2005

LOWVILLE, N.Y. -- Three million gallons of liquid manure spilled from a
northern New York dairy farm into a nearby river, killing what state officials estimate are hundreds of thousands of fish.

With the strongly scented tide moving its way down the Black River toward Lake Ontario Thursday, the city of Watertown shut off its water intake, and people in Lewis and Jefferson counties have been warned not to drink water from the river.

"The smell is your typical dairy air, you might say," said Steven Fuller, who owns a riverside restaurant in Lowville.

For now, local officials are dearly hoping for rain.

"Right now the river's not flowing much," said Jim Martin, Lewis County's emergency manager. "There's not much we can do, just sit by."

The spill came from one of the largest farms in Lewis County, Marks Farms, about five miles south of the village of Lowville. The farm is one of the county's 20 largest employers.

Martin said the spill happened when an earthen wall of a lagoon holding about three million gallons of liquid manure blew out, sending the manure into a drainage ditch and then into the Black River. Martin said the spill happened either late Wednesday night or early Thursday.

State Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman Stephen
Litwhiler told the Watertown Daily Times it's too early to tell whether the farmers will face charges.

An employee answering the phone at Marks Farms said the owner was not
taking calls at home Thursday night. The farm is owned by David and Jacquelyn Peck and William Marks, according to federal farm records.

Already the DEC estimates hundreds of thousands of fish, including perch, bass, catfish, shiners and walleye, will die before the manure surge is flushed away, Martin said.

"It definitely will affect tourism," he said. "The Black River is known for its fishing areas."

Martin said such a large spill has never happened in the largely
agricultural county where officials say cows outnumber people.
The gates of the nearby Stillwater Reservoir are being opened to help
flush the river.

Watertown's chief water treatment plant operator, Brian Gaffney, said the city's water treatment system will be able to treat the contaminated water, since it would be well diluted by the time it reached Watertown. Gaffney expected to reopen the city's water intake Friday.

The state health department is monitoring the spill, which already has affected local businesses.

"Unfortunately, people assumed that because I'm so close, my water supply is from the river, which it is not," said Fuller, whose restaurant had many cancellations Thursday.

"There's always a smell that comes from the farm," Fuller said. "Now, the worst is over from the looks of it. Before, there were lots of dead fish going down."

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