DEQ Probes Blacks Run Wildlife Kill

Official: Aquatic Life Returning

Posted: August 5, 2014

HARRISONBURG — A stretch of Blacks Run has largely returned to normal after more than two dozen fish and a rat were apparently killed by a cleaning fluid that entered the waterway last week, according to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

Donald Kain, water quality monitoring and assessments manager with the Valley Regional Office of the DEQ, said that the damage was limited to about a 100-yard stretch of the creek, and that aquatic life had already returned to the area by Monday.

“It was an unfortunate accident, but very temporary,” Kain said.

The damage apparently stems from the use of sodium hypochlorite by the cleaning company Squeeky Clean, which had been contracted by Rockingham County to clean the exterior of the Rockingham County Jail last week.

On Friday, someone tipped off Alan Lehman with the environmental watchdog group Shenandoah Riverkeeper about the large number of dead fish in the waterway near the jail.

Lehman spoke with the company on Saturday and found out that the chemical sodium hypochlorite was an ingredient in the company’s power washing solution.

“The product is fine for the application [as it was] being used, as long as it doesn’t enter the water,” Kain said.

The department is still gathering information on the incident, but Kain said the preliminary conclusion is that the cleaning solution is responsible for the wildlife deaths in Blacks Run.

He could not estimate how much of the solution entered the stream, nor could he identify the brand of cleaning solution the company was using.

He also said that it was too early in the investigation to speculate on what penalties, if any, the company could face.

On Monday, Stephen King, Rockingham County deputy administrator, said that county staff reviewed the material safety data sheets the company had filed prior to the cleaning. He said the documents listed one of the ingredients as “bleach,” which sodium hypochlorite is colloquially known as when it is dissolved in water.

King could also not comment on potential penalties the company may face for the waterway contamination, saying that it was now under DEQ’s jurisdiction.

“We’re not happy about it … regardless of where the fault lies,” King said.

Contact Bryan Gilkerson at 574-6267 or

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