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Company hit with fine after leaking nearly half a million gallons of chlorine into vulnerable trout habitat: 'Fish are very sensitive'

"It's kind of remarkable that clean water can kill fish."

"It's kind of remarkable that clean water can kill fish."

Photo Credit: iStock

Several hundred fish in Iowa died in January after a faulty pipe released chlorinated water into a local waterway. 

What happened?

The Gazette reported that NS Holdings LLC has agreed to pay $7,500 after an unoccupied commercial building it owns polluted McLoud Run in Cedar Rapids with about 450,000 gallons of chlorinated drinking water, killing about 400 fish.

City officials spotted dead fish along 1.9 miles of the 2.5-mile stream on Jan. 23, though murky waters made it difficult to count in deeper pools. The investigators estimated that 336 rainbow and brown trout, 61 white suckers, and seven green fish died from the leakage. Samples from two locations showed total chlorine levels of 0.12 and 0.10 milligrams per liter. 

An administrative consent order from the state's Department of Natural Resources noted that the Dallas-based firm needed to pay restitution of about $5,800 for the total fish kill, $282 for the Field Office's investigative costs, and an administrative penalty of $1,500. 

Why is the leakage concerning?

McLoud Run is Iowa's only urban trout stream and is fed by a spring that — presumably during certain times of year — keeps conditions cool enough for the species to survive, according to the news source.

This most recent incident makes it the second time a significant amount of chlorinated water entered the stream within a year and 13th overall since the city began stocking it with fish in 1997, as the Gazette reported. 

Cedar Rapids paid a restitution of $22,000 after a city water main break in March 2023 killed 1,700 fish.

"It's kind of remarkable that clean water can kill fish, but that's what happens here with the chlorine in the water," Iowa DNR senior environmental specialist Chris Gelner told The Gazette about last year's leakage. "Fish are very sensitive."

Human activity has continued to threaten trout populations, as the planet's overheating has caused some trout to turn into "zombie fish" afflicted with lesions, sores, and blindness. Others have become addicted to methamphetamines after getting their habitats polluted with pharmaceuticals. 

What was done about the leakage?

Crews shut off the water and treated it with dechlorination tablets. However, the city may add pressure monitoring systems to underground water lines to shorten response times and minimize the damage.

"We think it would help, especially in that McLoud Run area, to try to minimize the duration of those leaks," Cedar Rapids Utilities director Roy Hesemann said of the potential addition.

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