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John Hollenhorst ReportingSomething in the water in Springville has killed hundreds, perhaps even thousands of fish. And the investigation has zeroed in on a company that flushed something down the drain.
The fish died in several canals and ponds in a Springville Industrial Park. Authorities aren't sure yet if the contaminant reached the waters of Utah Lake. The first indication something had gone wrong was last Wednesday night when alarms went off at Springville's sewage treatment plant. Large amounts of foam started piling up, the plant's performance began to degrade rapidly, and fish downstream started dying.
Approximately ten thousand pounds of carp have died. Most are fish that were stocked in private ponds and canals. Whatever contaminated the water evidently made it hard for fish to get the oxygen they need.
Wildlife and water quality experts went by canoe, following the trail downstream to the fringes of Utah Lake to see if the pollution got that far. It may have. They found several dead catfish and bass.
Chris Cline, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: "Five to seven, in that range. Yeah, normally you might see one or two, maybe.
Early on, the chemical in the water, whatever it is, had a strong smell of peppermint. Late this afternoon, E-Excell International, a producer of nutritional supplements and skin care products, issued a statement. It acknowledges the company was a source of contamination, without admitting the fish kill.
The company statement says "certain employees disposed of unused finished product by pouring those products down a drain. Those employees have been fired," the statement says, because they violated long-established company procedures.
State officials believe the chemical was a light soapy fluid used for washing vegetables.
Chris Imbrogno, Utah Div. of Water Quality: "Sudsing material in the soaps will reduce the oxygen uptake of the fish, and that can kill them."
Experts say it's too soon to say if the chemical did any damage to endangered species and birds in the area. Meanwhile, civil or criminal citations are possible, depending on the course of the investigation.