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Spilt Milk Poses Major Threat

Posted at: 01/30/2013 9:03 PM
Updated at: 01/30/2013 10:15 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- When icy roads caused a large milk truck to slide off the road near Elkton on Tuesday morning, it spilled nearly 6,000 gallons of milk, snapped several trees, and downed nearby power lines in the process.

But while utility workers responded quickly to clear the danger, a different threat was slowly seeping into the stream.

The milk, although an organic compound, could prove deadly for the surrounding wildlife.

“It strips water out of the water column so that the fish either have to leave or suffocate,” said David Morrison, an emergency responder with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. “It also kills the oxygen so that the bugs and the critters living in the bottom of the stream also die."

Morrison and another pollution control worker were out Wednesday afternoon taking samples and monitoring oxygen levels in the stream. But with the water still flowing beneath the ice, the danger isn't only to wildlife living near the site of the crash.

“So far we've followed the milk about, just shy of two miles downstream,” Morrison said.

Thankfully the cold temperatures froze much of the spill in place, which could help avoid a major fish kill.

“With the cold that's probably not going to happen for a while, but we want to keep our eye on it anyway to make sure we don't have a stress to the stream,” Morrison said.

Experts say the best thing they can do right now is to make sure the water flow remains open, to hopefully dilute the milk and minimize the damage.

Officials said they will continue to monitor the stream's oxygen levels over the coming weeks as they work to reduce the damage as much as possible.