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DNR investigates spilled milk in Adair County tanker accident

FONTANELLE – An accident with a tanker hauling milk east of Fontanelle Sunday evening caused a spill to reach the Middle Nodaway River.

When DNR investigators arrived Monday, Zimmerman Transport had removed the almost empty tanker.  DNR found milk in a road ditch along Highway 92, flowing through a culvert into an unnamed tributary. From there the milk ran about 1.3 miles into the Middle Nodaway River, creating a visible plume for about 50 yards downstream.

Because of its high organic content, milk can cause fish kills in streams. Oxygen levels in the stream drop as bacteria breaks down the milk. When milk concentrations are high, the resulting oxygen sag can kill fish and other aquatic organisms like crawdads and insect larvae.

The Wisconsin-based transport company had a vacuum truck on site Monday to recover pooled milk from the ditch, but high flows in the stream prevented recovery downstream. It’s unknown how much milk reached the river or how much remains in the tanker. Estimates vary, but the tanker could have been carrying 7,500 gallons.

DNR staff continues to investigate. Visibility in the tributary was limited Monday, so field staff will inspect the stream today to determine effects on aquatic life.

The DNR will consider appropriate enforcement action.

The Fontanelle and Greenfield fire departments, Adair County Sheriff’s office and the Adair/Guthrie County Emergency Management Coordinator responded to the accident Sunday night. 

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