Crews continue assessing damage from chemical spill into Tinker Creek

DEQ says company will face fines based on number and species of fish killed

ROANOKE, Va. – Crews are still working to assess the damage from a chemical spill into Tinker Creek that happened over the weekend.

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management says the chemical Termix leaked from a container on the Crop Production Services property.

On Monday, crews made their way to Tinker Creek to get a better idea of the impact of the chemical spill.

"They’re a good indicator of clean water," one worker said while assessing the fish.

The big concern farther downstream was endangered fish.

"He looks healthy. We found probably about 20 logperch in this small section and it seems like a pretty healthy population," the worker said.

Fish closer to the spill site weren't so lucky. On Saturday, soapy water and dead fish lined the creek for miles.

"We are continuing to count the fish because that does figure into whether there's a penalty against the company and we will be continuing to monitor the water quality," Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Bill Hayden said.

So far, the number of dead fish is at least in the tens of thousands. Officials say the deaths are the result of 165 gallons of Termix, a herbicide additive, that leaked into the creek.

WSLS 10 spoke with an organic chemist at Roanoke College to find out just how dangerous the chemical is.

“It is not an herbicide itself, which means we hopefully don't have to worry about massive plant die-offs along Tinker Creek, which was my first concern when I heard of a herbicide spill. However, these things are more toxic to aquatic organisms than they are to terrestrial organisms such as humans," Dr. Skip Brenzovich, an associate professor of chemistry, said.

Though there aren't any reports of people exposed to the chemical yet and the DEQ says an effect on well water is unlikely, it's best to be cautious.

"Knowing it's in the well water and having it treated would probably be better, more safe than sorry," Brenzovich said.

The DEQ says the worst of the situation is over. The department doesn't have any immediate concerns at this point. A spokesperson says it could take several years for the creek to return to normal and for aquatic life to repopulate.

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