BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Tyson Foods Inc. said in an open letter that a mechanical failure in temporary piping installed by a contractor at its Hanceville, Alabama, River Valley Ingredients facility was the reason for the release of partially treated effluent back on June 6.
The open letter went on to say that an estimated 220,000 gallons of partially treated wastewater was released into Black Warrior River and Mulberry Fork.
Back in June, state officials conservatively estimated 175,000 fish were killed following the spill.
“Since it had not yet completed the treatment process, the water that reached the Mulberry Fork caused the oxygen levels to drop,” said Shane Park, senior vice president at River Valley Ingredients. “Fish died as a result of the decrease in oxygen levels. We want residents to understand this was due to low levels of oxygen in the water and not because of the release of man-made chemicals. The oxygen levels in the water returned to normal within a short time of the incident and fish are starting to return.”
Tyson and River Valley said it would continue to have discussions with the Alabama Dept. of Environmental Management (ADEM) and Alabama Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources.
“We are actively assessing conservation and community projects that we may undertake to further our efforts in the area of the release and in Alabama generally,” Parks continued.
The company said it had open dialogue with property owners, elected officials, The Nature Conservancy, Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Friends of the Locust Fork River and various other groups on the next steps moving forward.
In a June 14 investigation, the ADEM said dead fish could be observed as far as 40 miles downstream from the facility. The department then reported depressed levels of dissolved oxygen up to 22 miles downstream from the facility.