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Davis County health officials investigating after chemical leaked from Lagoon into Farmington Creek

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FARMINGTON — Health officials are investigating after a chemical leaked out of Lagoon Amusement Park’s drinking water treatment plant and seeped into Farmington Creek, killing some fish in the area.

There is no harm to the general public, and no injuries have been reported, according to Rachelle Blackham, environmental health director for the Davis County Health Department.

Health officials were notified about 9 p.m. Sunday of the spill involving sodium hypochlorite, Blackham said Tuesday evening.

The chemical, also known as liquid bleach or chlorine, is used to sanitize all drinking water at Lagoon, park spokesman Adam Leishman said. It is typically used in municipal drinking water treatment systems for that purpose, he added.

A small tube runs between a storage tank and pump at Lagoon, and the chemical began leaking from the tube on Saturday, Blackham said.

Lagoon staffers monitor the plant daily, and when they inspected it Saturday everything was in order, according to Blackham. Employees checked it again Sunday morning and noticed the leak and the missing chemical, she said.

Park officials initially thought the spill was limited to a sanitary sewer and did not notify authorities, Blackham said. When they realized the chemical made it to a storm drain, they contacted the health department, she said.

The leak happened inside the building, and there was no reason to suspect the chemical had made it into the storm drain system, Leishman said.

But as part of the park's regular investigation process Sunday, employees tested the nearby creek and realized the chemical had gotten into it, Leishman said. At that point, they notified the health department, he added.

Park officials believe the chemical may have seeped underneath a door of the facility and then entered a storm drain outside of the building, Leishman said. The treatment plant itself is about 300 feet away from the creek, but the chemical may have entered the storm drain further away, he added.

Health officials are unsure exactly how much of the chemical spilled into the creek. The tank holds up to 1,000 gallons, but the leak was very small over time, Blackham said. The tank was not full when the spill occurred, according to Leishman.

About 130 fish died in the creek downstream from where the spill occurred, according to Utah Division of Wildlife Resources spokesman Mark Hadley.

A DWR conservation officer found the fish Monday morning in Farmington Creek about half a mile west of I-15, Hadley said. The officer didn't find any dead fish until he reached that area of the creek.

Most of the fish that died were bluegill, but there also were 11 rainbow trout, three suckers and one bullhead catfish, according to Hadley.

He did not know why the fish died in the area where they did. It could be that there are simply more fish in that area of the creek, or that there is a natural barrier at the freeway crossing that fish don't go past, Hadley added.

There is no indication the chemical made it farther downstream to the Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area, Hadley said.

As of Tuesday evening, there were very low levels of the chemical detected in the stream, Blackham said.

The health department will continue monitoring the area until they do not detect the chemical. Blackham anticipated that would happen by the end of Wednesday.

It has not been determined if Lagoon will be cited or reprimanded due to the incident, Blackham said. The Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Division of Drinking Water and DWR are also investigating the spill.

The DWR may be able to seek restitution from Lagoon for the value of dead fish, but it will be up to the Davis County Attorney's Office to decide whether to move forward with restitution, Hadley said.

Restitution is typically $25 per fish for rainbow trout, and $10 per fish for the other fish that died, according to Hadley.

Lagoon park officials are working with the health department moving forward to make sure a similar leak doesn't happen in the future, Leishman said.

As of Wednesday, the park had already put a process in place for remediation, he said. That process includes a secondary backup system for notification and containment of chemical leaks.

"We’ve been a part of this community for 133 years and we take the responsibility to our neighbors and the community at large really seriously," Leishman said. "We want to operate responsibly toward the community and the environment, so we are taking all steps necessary to ensure that this does not happen again."

Contributing: Mehul Asher, KSL

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