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A creek in Georgia has caused massive fish kills after a soybean spill that happened about a mile from the area in July.
So far, more than 100 fish have died in Flat Creek, a tributary of Lake Lanier in Hall County, a Georgia Environmental Protection Division spokesman confirmed on Monday, Aug. 22 for Fox News Digital.
Last week, local news outlet FOX 5 Atlanta first reported the deaths associated with the presence of soybeans in the water system.
“We started noticing the problem with soybeans appearing in the creek, along with discolored water,” said Becca Risser, an overhead watershed specialist at Chattahoochee Riverkeeper — a nonprofit that monitors water quality, in an interview with FOX 5 Atlanta.
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Risser explained that the bacteria that break down the water-rich soybeans are “[using] all the dissolved oxygen in the stream up and the dissolved oxygen levels down too low for fish to survive.”
In a statement to Fox News Digital, Risser explained: “As bacteria feed on the soybeans, they also use oxygen dissolved in the water to fuel their metabolism, just like animals do. This also lowers the oxygen concentration in the water. low for fish to survive.”
Risser continued, “The state standard for dissolved oxygen in a body of water like Flat Creek is 5 mg oxygen per liter of water, but we found dissolved oxygen levels of less than 1 mg/L near the spill site.”
Experts in the area are trying to reoxygenate Flat Creek to help fish by pulling the presence of soybeans, Rissier told FOX 5 Atlanta.
Flat Creek is a stream that is about five miles long, according to the National Hydrography Dataset published by the United States Geological Survey.
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The Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s Aug. 12 “Flat Creel Fish Kill Report” counted 21 dead bluegill fish, 74 dead mosquito fish, and an unspecified number of dead worms.
According to Risser’s interview with FOX 5 Atlanta, an investigation is currently underway into how the soybeans ended up in Flat Creek.
“We are aware of a train derailment that occurred upstream from here, including three soybean-loaded train cars that overturned at the headwaters of Flat Creek,” she told FOX 5 Atlanta.
Norfolk Southern Railway is the company that transported the soybeans and experienced a derailment last month, according to a statement emailed to FOX 5 Atlanta.
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“On July 29, three cars derailed from a train in south Norfolk in Gainesville, resulting in the release of soybeans,” the Atlanta-based railroad company wrote.
“[Norfolk Southern] and our contractors responded immediately, working to contain and clear the spill. There was no impact on Flat Creek,” the statement continued. “On Friday, Aug. 12, we were notified of soybean material in Flat Creek, about a mile from the derailment site.”
Fox News Digital contacted Norfolk Southern to inquire about the possibility of spilled soybeans traveling from the derailment site to Flat Creek due to wind or disturbance from wildlife.
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Norfolk Southern has not been named as the cause of the mysterious Flat Creek soybean spill.
Soybeans have been grown in the Peach State since the 1700s and are a common animal feed, according to agricultural sources published by the University of Georgia Extension school.
“The 180,000 hectares planted each year in Georgia are mainly used for cooking oil production, although [College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences] researchers are busy exploring the value of soybeans as an alternative fuel,” says the university’s current soybean guide.
Norfolk Southern’s statement to FOX 5 Atlanta reiterated that the company responded promptly to the railcar derailment.
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“We have a dedicated staff of environmentalists and contractors experienced in these types of incidents, and they responded immediately to help,” Norfolk Southern wrote to FOX 5 Atlanta. “That effort has been underway since Friday and we will continue to work with our state partners to identify the source of the material and clear it from the creek.”
The railroad added, “It’s important to note that soybeans are not dangerous, but decompose over time like any other organic material would.”
A spokesman for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division told Fox News Digital that the dead fish were found “about a mile downstream from the soybean spill,” and about 100 fish were killed by the beans.
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“That number may have been higher, but because of the murky water conditions, our response team was unable to see the bottom of the stream,” the Georgia Environmental Protection Division wrote. “The natural decay process of organic matter, such as soybeans, uses oxygen. When the soybeans in the creek decayed, it used all the available oxygen dissolved in the water and then left insufficient dissolved oxygen for fish and other aquatic organisms.”