| TWO-MILE MESS – The hog waste that infiltrated Little Cypress Creek in rural Martin nearly two weeks ago had left a two and a half mile trail down the creek by Saturday, July 24. The yellow and red stripes highlight the path of the lagoon water in the creek as seen from above, and intersects Hwy. 431 between Martin and Union City. |
A stretch of rural creek outside of Martin has been under scrutiny after local and state officials discovered pools of an alien substance had taken up residence in the creek’s beds.
The office of the Weakley County Emergency Management Agency was called to the area of Little Cypress Creek off of Cypress Creek Road outside of Martin on Saturday, July 24.
The discovery of dead fish in the creek prompted the call, according to the county’s EMA director Jamison Peevyhouse. A initial visual assessment of the red-stained water led Peevyhouse to believe that transmission fluid had been dumped into the creek.
“I thought maybe it was a large amount of transmission fluid. This red substance had inundated the area. Because of the presence of dead fish, I called the TWRA (Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency),” Peevyhouse commented in a phone interview.
After tracing the creek armed with TWRA Aquatic Habitat Biologist Allen Pyburn and a biologist the following morning, authorities discovered the two and a half mile trail led them across Hwy. 431 and directly to a hog farm lagoon behind Hester Road.
“If it is done right, a hog farm lagoon can be a useful tool as fertilizer for agriculture crops,” Pyburn shared.
A farm lagoon is composed of animal waste, micro-organisms and chemicals. Pyburn said chemicals have to be used in a lagoon to keep the “horrendous” smell at bay.
TWRA then contacted the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Now, the hog farm and its landowner, William Thompson, Jr. are under scrutiny by the state agencies.
According to Meg Lockhart, a TDEC representative, the “discharge of the farm’s lagoon was not accidental.”
“The owner used a pump to lower the water level in his lagoon by approximately two feet,” Lockhart shared. A concerned citizen noticed a septic tank service armed with a tanker truck and hose at Little Cypress Creek on Hester Road on Monday, July 26 and notified the Weakley County Press.
According to Lockhart, the owner of the septic tank service, Tracy Vicary, was contacted by the farm owner to provide remedial action and help remove the pools of hog waste from the creek.
When asked what other actions are required to alleviate the stinky mess infiltrating the rural creek, Lockhart said the pump was being used to remove as much waste as possible and no other actions are required. While TDEC proceeds with its investigation into the issue, the TWRA is keeping a close watch on the wastewater in the creek.
“The tests of the water revealed that it contained zero dissolved oxygen, which is something fish rely on. It has killed some sunfish along the creek. Nothing aquatic will live in that water,” Pyburn said.
His department waits for a significant rain event, which in time, would dilute the high concentration of ammonia and chemicals in the water, according to Pyburn.
“The more diluted it is, the better off we are. Little Cypress Creek turn into Cypress Creek and eventually flows into the Obion River. I hope there won’t be any more fish killed,” Pyburn added.
Pyburn reported on Tuesday, the wastewater had made its way to the area of Hall Griffin Road in Obion County behind Everett-Stewart Regional Airport.
According to Lockhart, there are no water intakes along the affected low-flow stream,
“TDEC recommends that residents take basic precautions and avoid contact with contaminated streams, including swimming or wading. If contact is made, routine washing with soap and not eating or drinking while in contact with contaminated water can significantly help reduce potential exposure to illness,” Lockhart stated.
A main concern shared by both departments and the Weakley County EMA office was the potential hazard posed to livestock along the tainted creek.
An initial investigation revealed there are reportedly no livestock along the creek that are dependent on Little Cypress Creek for drinking water.
Under Tennessee’s Water Quality Control Act, discharging waste without a permit is a violation of the law. Thompson could face civil violations as well as criminal violations for the lagoon spill.
Vicary apparently transported the waste he removed from the creek to the City of Martin’s wastewater Treatment Plant.
“We treat wastewater here, biologically. The waste then stays here and the clean water is pumped out,” Martin’s Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent Stacy Chappell shared.
“The farmer is saying it was an accident – that he had forgotten the pump was in place. Either way, he is still liable,” Pyburn said.
The incident remains under investigation by the two state agencies.