SOUTH OGDEN — Children who regularly fish in Burch Creek were out of luck on Pioneer Day when they found the creek full of belly-up fish and a couple of dead ducks. The group of children also noticed a smell like gasoline.
Concerned about their fishing spot, a member of the young fishing party called their mom, who called 911 to report the incident, according to Captain Tracy Bolt with the South Ogden Fire Department.
The South Ogden Fire Department, South Ogden Public Works and Weber-Morgan Health Department had personnel present at the site Wednesday, according to Bolt.
The fire department was notified just before 4:30 pm, Bolt said, and the health department was called out at 4:42 pm, according to Lori Buttars, public information officer with the health department.
Bolt said responders found 40–50 dead fish in the creek. After checking for dead and live fish in different parts of the creek, they think the contamination began near the area where the creek goes underneath Glasmann Way, at about 5200 South.
“We were all in concurrence that it was some type of hydrocarbon, which is a flammable liquid,” said Bolt. “Our best guess based upon what we were finding out there was it was very likely gasoline.”
Bolt said a nearby resident also said she smelled gas that morning around 7 a.m., but she did not find anything awry on her property when she investigated, so she didn’t report the smell.
“The bulk of (the contaminated water was) diluted and washed way downstream and benign by the time we were notified,” Bolt continued. “So as far as it being a hazard to the public, (it’s) little to none.”
The children were unharmed, Bolt said.
According to Buttars, South Ogden Public Works storm water personnel took samples at the site for testing. The agency that gets there first usually takes the sample, Buttars said.
Standard practice in these situations is for the agency that collects the sample to send it to a lab to be analyzed, according to Kevin Okleberry, spills coordinator with the Utah Division of Water Quality. The test results are then evaluated by the lead local agency on the incident in consultation with the division, Okleberry said.
Okleberry confirmed that the division had received an incident report submitted by Weber-Morgan Health Department.
A representative from South Ogden Public Works could not be reached to confirm that the samples have been submitted to a lab to be analyzed. Okleberry said that agencies sometimes wait to submit samples until they can gain more information about the type of contaminant.
If the sample testing comes back negative for gasoline, it could be tricky to determine what the contaminant is — like a needle in a haystack, Okleberry said.
“If (the tests are) negative for what the most obvious thing is, then it’s kind of ‘Okay, how long do we want to pursue this?’” Okleberry said. “At this point, we would need some help from the public to ... identify a responsible party and find out what happened and what chemical they discharged. That, of course, would allow us to do an analysis.”
Those who have any information about the incident should call the state’s 24-hour environmental incident line at 801-536-4123. Those wishing to report information can also call the division’s main line during the day at 801-536-4300 and ask for Kevin Okleberry.