Between 5,000 and 10,000 gallons of liquid cow manure spilled into a tributary of the Coldwater River when a dairy farm pipeline malfunctioned, according to state regulators.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is investigating the agriculture spill, which was discovered Monday, April 30, between 10-11 a.m., according to the dairy farm owner where the spill occurred.
Anglers notified the DEQ of a blackish discoloration of the Coldwater River downstream of the Twin River Dairy farm at 13225 108th Street on Monday at 2:30 p.m., said DEQ spokesperson Scott Dean.
“It’s difficult to determine how much made it into the river at this point,” Dean said.
The manure came from a pipeline operated by Brook View Dairy, a Holland-based multi-facility dairy business with a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) at 10560 Freeport Ave.
Larry Kuperus, Twin River Dairy farm owner, said the 8-inch pipeline running underneath his property “leaked a little bit” after a valve cracked open. The pipeline was installed about 8-10 years ago.
“No one caught it right away,” he said.
Brook View is “doing their best to clean it up,” Kuperus said.
The pipe is used for irrigation but sometimes carries manure, he said. The leak occurred about 200 to 300 feet north of 108th Street in the southeast corner of Kent County.
A message left with Brook View was not immediately returned.
The DEQ was taking river samples Monday and Tuesday to gather evidence for what’s likely to be a pollution discharge permit violation.
Dean said manure containment on the river was not feasible.
“Upcoming rain events should remediate any short term impacts of the manure discharge,” he said.
Members of the Coldwater River Watershed Council said the river went from being “gin clear to black and mucky” following the spill. The group posted signage at the nearby Dolan Nature Sanctuary to warn fishermen about the manure.
The Coldwater River is a popular trout stream. Trout season opened this weekend following fingerling stocking.
Sam Pyle, president of the watershed council, said manure spills threaten aquatic life as well as the health of fishermen because the liquid waste contains E.coli bacteria, which anglers are exposed to through skin contact with the river.
Although the Michigan Department of Natural Resources staff said there have not been any reported fish kills associated with the manure spill, Pyle said coming rains may wash more nutrients into the river and could cause a downstream algae bloom.
Pyle and other members of the watershed council are frustrated by periodic manure spills “every two to three years” in the watershed.
“It’s a constant frustration, given the amount of time and effort that we put into the watershed, to continuously have these events happen,” he said. At least with this one “we haven’t seen any dead fish.”