Black Warrior Riverkeeper releases update on Mulberry Fork spill

Tyson/River Valley Ingredients plant in Hanceville (Black Warrior Riverkeeper)
CULLMAN, Ala. – Black Warrior Riverkeeper, the nonprofit whose stated mission is to protect and restore the Black Warrior River and its tributaries, on Thursday released an update on last week’s effluent spill by Tyson Foods, Inc./River Valley Ingredients into the Dave Young Creek, which flows to the Mulberry Fork.
Below is Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s statement from June 13:
Tyson fish kill update 6/13: Today we called Tyson Foods and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) to get more information on the spill at Tyson’s chicken rendering facility near Hanceville, and its downstream impacts. As of 4:30 PM we have received no responses or updates from either party. Our water sampling this Monday at the confluence of the Mulberry and Sipsey Forks, 28 miles downstream of Tyson, returned results for E. coli of nearly 600 col./100mL, double the maximum amount allowed by the state of Alabama in surface waters during the summer recreation season. This Tuesday, ADEM confirmed finding pathogens but did not specify where, when, or at what amount. This Wednesday, Tyson reported that dissolved oxygen was improving in the Mulberry Fork but did not specify where or when. Tyson also oddly announced that folks could start enjoying the river again, but only based that vague suggestion on improved dissolved oxygen, which has little relevance to human safety (unlike bacteria). Meanwhile, Tyson’s slug of spilled waste water continues to head downriver. We continue to recommend that people and their pets avoid contact with the Mulberry Fork for the time being, especially where water is muddy, stinky, or carrying dead fish.


Please join us in encouraging anyone concerned to file complaints with ADEM, urging them to levy stiff penalties for Tyson: (Brad Stearns). Also, please write elected officials to complain about Tyson and ADEM: If you have good pictures of the spill, please email them to Black Warrior Riverkeeper: If you have questions about the safety of your drinking water, please contact your local water provider listed on your water bill. Finally, if you have questions about swimming and fishing safety, please contact your county’s department of health (and/or the Alabama Department of Public Health):

Cullman County Health Department
(256) 734-1030

Blount County Health Department
(205) 274-2120

Walker County Health Department
(205) 221-9775

Alabama Department of Public Health
(800) 252-1818

On Wednesday, June 12, Tyson Foods, Inc.’s Worth Sparkman sent The Tribune the following statement:

River Valley Ingredients would like for the public to know that as of today, June 12, 2019, the Mulberry Fork and the Sipsey Fork near Hanceville, Alabama, are available for recreation. Oxygen levels in the water have returned to normal, which are appropriate for area wildlife. 

Again, we deeply regret the incident and appreciate the coordination of efforts and help we received from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. We will be seeking guidance from both agencies on our longer-term remediation efforts and will communicate those to the community once we’ve decided on the course of action.

Background links:

June 13

June 11

June 7


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Wendy Sack