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Investigators work to confirm source of Rocky Creek chemical spill

Published: Nov. 19, 2021 at 11:24 AM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Crews believe they know where a chemical spilled, eventually making its way into Rocky Creek and fouling the water with an oily sheen that killed at least 100 fish and sent out a stench that alarmed neighbors.

Georgia Environmental Protection Division officials believe it all started upstream off a tractor-trailer lot. Crews dug up soil in the area to test it and learn more.

Cleanup continues in the creek after crews spent Thursday vacuuming up tainted water from the creek. The day before, crews had placed absorbent barriers in the water to contain the chemical in the hours after the spill was reported.

The chemical spilled into the creek in an area off North Leg Road near Commerce Drive. Crews were removing soil right across the street on property owned by MDR Trucking of Augusta.

By Friday morning, the hole they’d dug had been filled.

By the morning of Nov. 109, 2021, a hole had been filled near Rocky Creek, where crews had dug...
By the morning of Nov. 109, 2021, a hole had been filled near Rocky Creek, where crews had dug up soil for testing the day before. A chemical spill in the area made its way into the creek.(WRDW)

Investigators believe the chemical came from a vehicle.

Although no harm has been confirmed, the incident for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

“This is on the large size for us,” said Jeff Darley, district manager for the agency that’s still trying to find out what happened.

“We’re still looking into the actual cause and what the material is. Still have not confirmed the substance but we believe it’s a petroleum substance, but that’s about all we know,” he said.

“There’s no confirmed harm at this time,” said Darley.

That testing could cost the state or the person responsible thousands of dollars. It could also land someone in criminal trouble.

“We hope that there are no fines involved but if the investigation determines there was deliberate action, then our agency has the ability to fine,” said Tonya Bonitatibus of Savannah Riverkeeper.

The Savannah Riverkeeper says this isn’t the first time the creek has had issues.

“It’s an urban creek that unfortunately has taken a number of hits throughout the years,” Bonitatibus said.

She’s seen issues with oil and white paint being washed into the creek.

“Right now, Rocky Creek is listed as impaired for the state of Georgia, so it is known as a creek that needs to be restored and rehabilitated,” said Bonitatibus.

She says her organization will continue to educate the community and show that every waterway has a purpose.

“We still have a lot of work to do to make sure our community understands that you can’t just rinse this stuff into the creek because it has affected more than a mile downstream and that’s a problem,” she said.

Crews tells us cleanup should only take a few more days. They say they don’t expect it to drag too far into next week.

SEE PHOTO GALLERY:

Substance spill at Rocky Creek

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