Sometime on Wednesday, August 10 or Thursday, August 11, an earthen wall gave way on a large dairy farm in upstate New York. Three million gallons of liquid manure poured into the Black River, wiping out fish populations and shutting down drinking water supplies downstream.
News of the spill made headlines across North America and as far away as Australia: News10 Now called the spill, "one of the largest hazardous substance spills in the history of the Black River." The NY Times described it as, "roughly a fourth the size of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill." One investigator with the State Department of Environmental Conservation referred to the millions of dead or dying fish, "The biggest fish kill I?ve ever seen."
The Black River is an important tributary of Lake Ontario. Its waters provide drinking water for towns and cities near its banks. Its fish provide food and sport to thousands of people. Its rapids create challenges for world-class paddlers to enjoy.
So, when Marks Farm dumped the equivalent of six Olympic-sized swimming pools full of manure into the river at one time, the impacts were many, and they were obvious: fish died, drinking water supplies were shut down, and all recreation ceased.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper has written to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for a progress report on the investigation. We will continue to provide our newsletter readers with updates as they arrive.
Sadly, it often takes damage of this magnitude to draw the public?s attention to the dangers of pollution and the importance of strict rules to prevent spills.
The impacts of a spill in open water on Lake Ontario are often less immediate and less obvious than in a shallow, thriving river. This also makes these spills less newsworthy.
For example, when the City of Kingston dumped 52-million litres of raw sewage into Lake Ontario four months ago, only local press covered the story. After the city bypassed one billion-litres in five years, pollution became old news.
Hopefully, the world?s interest in the Black River sewage spill will remind us all of the kind of healthy Lake Ontario that everyone should enjoy. And nobody should destroy.
P.S: While the frog anecdote is a good one for making our point, it may be that even frogs aren?t that stupid. Research by Dr. Victor Hutchison, a Research Professor Emeritus from the University of Oklahoma's Department of Zoology, suggests that frogs will jump out of hot water if ever they have the chance. See www.snopes.com