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McLoud water main break leads to 2,000 dead fish

The break did not affect residents' drinking water

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More than 2,000 fish are dead in McLoud Run after the third fish kill in four years on the urban trout stream in northeast Cedar Rapids.

A valve in a 16-inch city water main failed Monday afternoon during construction near the McLoud Bridge, officials from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and city of Cedar Rapids said Tuesday.

The break caused “several hundred thousands of gallons” of treated drinking water to flow into McLoud Run Creek, the city reported.

“Normally, we try to control the flow into the street by collecting the water, but in this case in went right into the stream,” said Joe Sanfilippo, environmental program supervisor for the DNR’s Manchester office.

The discharged water included chloramine, a chemical used to disinfect water, that is harmful to fish. Agency staff counted about 1,260 dead trout, 673 dead white suckers and 300 other dead fish connected to the water discharge.

Sending chlorinated water into a small stream, especially during the summer when the flow is low, can harm fish the same way tap water could hurt fish in a fish tank, Sanfilippo said.

The spring-fed trout stream is stocked annually with more than 3,000 brown trout, 2,000 rainbow trout and 1,000 brook trout, according to DNR officials in 2016. But recent fish kills have taken a toll.

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At least 70 trout were killed in September 2013, when a 6-inch city water line broke and sent treated water through a storm sewer into McLoud Run. City officials said at that time the age of the water line likely was responsible for the break.

An “unknown foreign substance” killed more than 300 fish in the creek in May 2016.

Animal waste was the leading cause of fish kills reported in assessed streams and rivers in Iowa, according to the DNR’s 2016 draft list of impaired waterways. Lesser causes were “unknown toxicity,” fertilizer, pesticides or other spills. Chlorine caused just a few of the fish kills reported in the DNR’s most recent impaired waters list.

Monday’s water main break on McLoud Run did not affect drinking water for Cedar Rapids residents, the city reported.

The DNR will decide whether to fine the city or seek restitution for lost fish after completing an investigation, Sanfilippo said.

“Protecting Cedar Rapids residents, as well as our natural resources, is extremely important and we take that responsibility seriously. We deeply regret this incident and plan to conduct a thorough evaluation to determine additional procedures to prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future,” the city of Cedar Rapids said in a news release.

l Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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