Chemical Accident Leaves Hundreds of Fish Dead

Concrete pressure-washing dumps storm water drain chemical into creekside parking deck

Betsy Anderson and her husband, Mel Battle, noticed that nothing in North Carolina's Little Sugar Creek was moving as they walked along the greenway Saturday morning. "There were just dead fish all over the place," Anderson said.From Carolinas Medical Center (CMC) to Freedom Park, hundreds of fish have died recently. A pressure-washing project leaked its chemicals into the creek, tainting it, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Management (CMSWM) officials.Charlotte-area police and fire officials were alerted of the mass fish deaths early Saturday, and a hazardous-materials team tested the water and determined that the public, workers and nearby businesses faced no immediate harm, said Charlotte Fire Department spokesman Rob Brisley.CMC had hired ValleyCrest Landscape Maintenance to pressure-wash the new concrete on its property. The company used an acidic chemical compound as a part of its pressure-washing procedure, violating city and state laws, said Rusty Rozzelle, water quality program manager with CMSWM.The acidic chemical lowered the creek's pH level from an acceptable 7 to 9 range to a 6. ValleyCrest, while it has agreed to remove the dead fish, could face up to a $10,000 fine, Rozzelle said.The Charlotte Observer could not reach ValleyCrest officials for comment Saturday evening. And according to Debra Pierce, vice president of marketing for CMC, CMC cooperated with authorities to determine the cause of the deaths.Commercial pressure-washing, Rozzelle said, is not a violation of drought-related city or county water restrictions but played a role in the incident. Low water levels in the creek, he said, meant the flow was not sufficient to dilute the washing chemicals.The pressure-washing lasted 11 hours, dumping the chemical from a storm water drain near a CMC parking deck that faces the creek. Around noon Saturday, the water was clear and fish were alive upstream from the drain. Downstream, dead fish floated in clouded water.

Charlotte Observer

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