An investigation has determined that manure runoff from an area farm caused the massive fish kill Friday in Owl and Pusheta creeks.
While the official news release had not been released yet, an official at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources confirmed a total of 28,770 dead fish or animals were found in the two creeks. The runoff was caused by manure from a farm owned by Lowell Headapohl, 12170 Burr Oak Road.
Workers from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Auglaize Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), the Auglaize County Emergency Management Agency (EMA), the Ohio Division of Wildlife and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) gathered at the scene at 9 a.m. after receiving a call about numerous dead fish in the two creeks.
At approximately 9:30 a.m., EMA Director Troy Anderson said a likely source had been determined and members of different agencies were investigating to confirm the source. During the investigation a second source was found to be polluting the stream with fuel oil, but it was ruled out as a cause of the dead fish.
Eight ODNR workers walked the lengths of the two streams and counted the number of dead fish, minnows, frogs, mussels and other creatures in the water. Each one is priced according to its length and species according to the American Fishery Society’s Monetary Guide for Fish Values. The official said the ODNR uses the civil court process and will charge the offender $8,400.
“We will send him a registered letter,” the official said. “Normally he will have 30 days to pay it. Sometimes a plan can be worked out if he can’t pay it in 30 days.
The official said the ODNR uses the civil process only to recover costs and the ODNR’s move does not block Hittepole from criminal charges.
Auglaize County ODNR Wildlife Officer Matt Hoehn said the manure reduced the oxygen level in the stream, causing the fish to suffocate. He noted all of the damage appeared to be restricted to Owl and Pusheta creeks.
“It appears that the manure had become diluted enough by the time it got to the Auglaize River to where it didn’t cause any damage in the river,” Hoehn said.
An official report by the ODNR was expected to be released over the next several days.