Friday, January 27th, 2023
Friday, January 27th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Fire leads to fish kill

St. Charles, Minn. – DNR fisheries officials were back in the
field earlier this week, assessing once again the damage done to
the Whitewater River’s fishery in the wake of a fire that destroyed
a St. Charles meat-processing plant on April 17.

The fire caused the evacuation of the 3,600-person town in
western Winona County in southeastern Minnesota. No one was injured
in the blaze that burned North Star Foods, Inc.

However, anhydrous ammonia – a refrigerant – escaped the
facility; water from firefighting efforts and the chemical
overwhelmed the wastewater treatment system, and the pollutant made
its way to the South Branch of the Whitewater River, according to
Harland Hiemstra, a spokesman for the DNR in St. Paul. The chemical
killed several suckers and minnows and a few trout, he said. The
actual number of fish killed hadn’t yet been determined as of
Outdoor News press time.

The kill occurred over a 4.8-section of the river, but 4 miles
upstream of a designated trout stream portion of the Whitewater
River, he said.

“The kill … is over and done with,” Hiemstra said. “The impacts
to the fishery occurred quickly and acutely.”

The pollutant lost its lethal capacity within a few miles of
stream as it was diluted, he said.

Hiemstra said the portion of the stream that experienced the
fish kill is an undesignated trout stream, and the event shouldn’t
affect fishing, including that within Whitewater State Park, a
popular trout-angling destination.

“As far as we can tell at this point, there won’t be any impact
on people fishing,” he said.

The state fire marshal’s office is investigating the cause of
the fire. Plans for the future of North Star were uncertain early
this week.

The AP contributed to this report.

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