Fish Kill in Southern Kentucky Waterways Traced to Logan County Cattle Feed Lot

Jun 27, 2019

Gasper River
Credit Kentucky Afield

State environmental officials have tracked down the cause of a recent fish kill in southern Kentucky to a cattle feed lot in Logan County. 

The state Division of Water found low oxygen and high levels of E-coli in water samples from the Gasper River and Clear Fork Creek when the fish kill occurred in late May. 

During the initial investigation, officials said thousands of fish died along 16 miles of waterways in Warren County - 11 miles in Clear Fork Creek and five miles in the Gasper River, which runs into the Barren River. That investigation by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources is continuing and a final count of fish deaths has not been determined. 

Spokesman for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet John Mura said water samples led to the Woodward Feed Lot in Auburn. Mura said three areas of noncompliance are in the Notice of Violation issued to feed lot owner Wade Woodward.

“The first violation is that the facility failed to implement an effective agriculture water quality plan. Because of that runoff was observed to enter Clear Fork Creek," said Mura. "The second violation was allowing the pollutants to enter and to contribute to the pollution of the water of the commonwealth. And the third violation was that those pollutants degraded the water of the commonwealth."

The Notice of Violation reports an animal carcass in an advanced state of decay was found on the feed lot. The compliance requirement includes properly disposing of all animal remains.

“We first look to make sure that any degradation of the waters of the commonwealth cease immediately," said Mura. "The second thing we do, we look at how to remediate this. We give instructions to the facility and or we work with them. At the same time, however, we turn these over to the Division of Enforcement.

Woodward has to immediately stop allowing pollutants to run off into the waterways and within 30 days submit a water quality plan. While there are possible financial penalties for the violations, Mura said they are usually negotiated. 

Mura said no warnings for fishermen or paddlers have been issued because the polluting incident has been addressed and the river is being cleaned up by natural processes.