UPDATE: Riverkeeper says ADEM E. coli investigation incomplete


Photo courtesy of Black Warrior Riverkeeper

An estimated 125,000 fish were killed in the Black Warrior River after waste spill at a Tyson Foods plant in Hanceville, Alabama. Photo courtesy of Black Warrior Riverkeeper

Rebecca Griesbach, News Editor

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management released an update of its investigation of Tyson Foods on Thursday, June 20.

[MORE: Tyson Foods under investigation for E. coli in Black Warrior River]

Water samples collected on June 13 ranged from 10.9 MPN/dl (most probable number of viable cells per deciliter) of E. coli in Linn Park to 110.0 MPN/dl in Gadsden. ADEM stated that these values met water quality standards, which require that the average E. coli density must be less than or equal to 126 colonies/dl.

From the data samples, the ADEM attributed the fish kill, spanning about 22 miles downstream of Mulberry Fork, to “depressed levels of dissolved oxygen” and confirmed that a fish consumption advisory was therefore not warranted in affected areas. The update also stated drinking water systems in affected areas have adjusted water treatments.

However, according to a press release from the Black Warrior Riverkeeper, the data is incomplete.  

“Since there was no bacteria testing performed in the Mulberry Fork downstream of Cordova, where the spill had already migrated to, given conflicting bacteria data between ADEM and SHC, and lacking any further ADEM sampling data since 6/14, we continue to recommend that people and their pets exercise caution when considering whether to swim in the Mulberry Fork or the Bankhead Lake section of the Black Warrior River for the time being, especially where water is a cloudy brown color, stinky, or carrying dead fish,” the Riverkeeper said in the press release.

The map below shows the updated E. coli levels and locations.

Map courtesy of the Black Warrior Riverkeeper

According to the ADEM update, the investigation is ongoing, and enforcement will begin after a closer review of all information.