What's in our waterways? When were they going to tell us? - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

What's in our waterways? When were they going to tell us?

On July 21, 2017, thousands of dead fish lined Harrods Creek. So WAVE 3 News starting calling MSD. (Source: John Boel, WAVE 3 News) On July 21, 2017, thousands of dead fish lined Harrods Creek. So WAVE 3 News starting calling MSD. (Source: John Boel, WAVE 3 News)
A chemical spill happened at Ford, but Ford officials say they did not believe it was of a hazardous material. (Source: Air 3, WAVE 3 News) A chemical spill happened at Ford, but Ford officials say they did not believe it was of a hazardous material. (Source: Air 3, WAVE 3 News)
MSD Operations Chief Brian Bingham said they did detect the spill, but only after it moved through their treatment plant. (Source: WAVE 3 News) MSD Operations Chief Brian Bingham said they did detect the spill, but only after it moved through their treatment plant. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

OLDHAM COUNTY, KY (WAVE) - I like to take pictures of the big fish I try to catch in Harrods Creek.

On July 21, 2017, all I could take were pictures of dead fish there while I was fishing; almost a thousand of them literally lining the creek.

Children were in the water when masses of dead fish floated toward them.

"The mothers got them out of the water and came up here and washed them up,” neighbor Bob Hull said that day.

When WAVE 3 News started calling around that Friday afternoon, MSD issued a release that said: "On Monday evening there was a chemical release
into the sewer system at the Ford Truck Plant. The chemical did go through the Hite Creek treatment facility."

The Hite Creek facility feeds Harrod's Creek. So why wasn't the public notified?

"It appears Ford was not aware that this was leaking out," MSD Operations Chief Brian Bingham said. "Therefore they didn't give us any notification."

MSD said 24 hours went by after the leak began.

"They did call once they found out it was being spilled," Bingham said. "Had they known about it when it started, we could have totally avoided this. The fact they didn't know about it made it more difficult to deal with."

But Ford tells a different story. In an email response, Ford Communications Manager Kelli Felker wrote:

"Urea is not considered a hazardous material.”
"Ford did not believe this was an abnormal condition, so MSD was not notified."
"MSD contacted Ford on July 19."

"Yes, had we known there was a fish kill, we could have sent something out," Bingham said.

But according to the incident report we obtained, MSD called the state to report a fish kill on the July 19th. That's 2 days before I saw it, WAVE 3 News called and the public finally got an alert from MSD at 3:08 pm.

MSD received a Notice of Violation from the state because it's their responsibility to catch over-the-limit levels of chemicals flowing through their plant into our waterways.

So why didn't their testing detect something wrong?

"The technology out there, lab analysis, is the best way if we don't get the notification," Bingham said. "It just, unfortunately, took about 24 hours longer than if we had known earlier, we could have caught it and offset it."

"So your technology detected it, just too late?" I asked.

"We detected it about the same time we were notified of it," Bingham said.

Is it just physically impossible to detect chemical spills sweeping through treatment plants until it's too late? We posed that question to Pete Goodman, director of the Kentucky Division of Water in Frankfort.

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"That's a good question,” Goodman said. "They have an obligation to do compliance monitoring. So they have to take samples every day for things that are part of their permit. Whatever they're doing for operational monitoring may or may not have picked up on it."

In 2016 and so far in 2017 in Jefferson and Oldham counties, there have been 266 reported chemical spills and 455 wastewater violations, from hydrochloric acid to chloroform to suspended solids.

WAVE 3 News showed you what suspended solids were in 2012 and 2014 on Harrod's Creek in a video of a sea of human feces.

Six weeks after the spill there are still few signs of fish. Even the thick schools of minnows that used to pack the creek appear to be long gone.

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