No contact advisory issued after manure leak

The Schaendorf Dairy Farm near Hopkins. (Feb. 17, 2014)

HOPKINS, Mich. (WOOD) — Residents who live near the Rabbit River in Allegan County are being advised to stay away from the water after it was contaminated by what could be as much as millions of gallons of manure.

The Allegan County Health Department issued the no contact advisory Monday morning.

A raw manure leak was discovered Friday at the Schaendorf Dairy Farm in Allegan County after the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality received a Facebook tip about the smell. By Saturday morning, the leak was located and stopped.

But an unknown amount of liquid manure had already been released into a drain leading into Bear Creek and the Rabbit River, according to the DEQ.

“The spill is probably 10 miles down in origin from the Rabbit River,” Brad Washburn of the DEQ said.

Dairy General Manager John Schaendorf told 24 Hour News 8 on the phone Monday that ice broke a valve on a pipe that connects a 20 million gallon manure containment lagoon to a storm water collection system. When that happened, the waste of 2,300 dairy cattle essentially rolled downhill.

The DEQ isn’t sure how much manure spilled into the creek, and said it will probably never know.

“We don’t because we are not sure when it started,” Washburn said.

Crews from the farm have been pumping the mess from the waterways and returning it to the containment system.

Despite the spill being cleaned up, the health department issued the no contact advisory, which includes no fishing or recreation in the water in Bear Creek, the Rabbit River and where the Rabbit River enters into the Kalamazoo River.

Liquid manure that leaked into the Rabbit River in Allegan County has caused the health department to issue a no contact advisory. (Feb. 17, 2014)Contact with the manure can cause waterborne illnesses, including vomiting, diarrhea and nausea. Anyone who comes in contact with the water should bathe thoroughly.

The Michigan DEQ said it will continue to monitor the waterway. When bacteria levels return to normal and the water is deemed safe, the advisory will be lifted.

The DEQ says the potential for problems is decreased due to the weather.

“It’s cold so we probably don’t have people recreating or fishing in the water,” Washburn said.

The cold also inhibits bacterial growth, preserving oxygen levels for fish.

The DEQ says Shaendorf Dairy has previously been in compliance with state regulations, but the spill could net the farm fines.

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