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DNR, Hy-Vee Working To Get Milky Water Out Of Stream

Courtesy of Hy-Vee
After investigating the issue with the City of Ankeny, the Iowa DNR was able to trace the milky water through a storm drain which was releasing milk from a Hy-Vee store at 410 N. Ankeny Blvd.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is working with Hy-Vee to prevent milky water from reaching an Ankeny creek after 800 gallons of spoiled milk were poured down a storm drain.

The DNR says it got reports Wednesday morning that fish were struggling near the surface of a tributary to Fourmile Creek that had turned white. After investigating the issue with the City of Ankeny, they were able to trace it back through a storm drain which was releasing milk from a Hy-Vee store at 410 N. Ankeny Blvd.

DNR Supervisor Ted Petersen said the agency has not seen any dead fish yet, but it’s a possibility. He said based on similar past events, bacteria start to break down dairy products once they enter a stream, and that takes oxygen from the water.

“And when all that oxygen is being used for the breakdown it doesn’t leave a lot for the fish and that’s when we start to see that fish kill as a result of that,” Petersen said. “It’s that breakdown of the organic material.”

Petersen said DNR staff will revisit the tributary Thursday morning to see if there are any changes. Meanwhile, the DNR and Hy-Vee are working to make sure the milky water does not reach Fourmile Creek. The DNR is requiring Hy-Vee to get the milky water out of the stream “as soon as possible,” Petersen said. They’re talking about building a temporary dam to slow down the water and pool it up so they can use a vacuum truck to suck it out of the tributary, Petersen said. Hy-Vee has hired a contractor for this.

“The faster that they can get out there and capture the milk that is in the stream, the less likely it is to have further impacts to that stream and hopefully minimize the chance of any dead fish,” Petersen said.

Petersen said the milk is going to be diluted and mixed in with the water, so the DNR doesn’t expect contractors to be able to remove all of it.

Monday’s derecho that left hundreds of thousands of Iowans without power also affected the Ankeny Hy-Vee. Hy-Vee said in a statement an employee “made an uninformed decision when instructing others on how to dispose of milk that had gone bad due to the recent power outages caused by Monday’s storms.”

The statement continues, “The moment this was brought to our attention, we immediately began working with the City of Ankeny, DNR and a third-party environmental cleanup company to address any potential issues. We are covering all costs related to the cleanup.”

Hy-Vee has also enrolled all employees involved in the incident in environmental education training with the Iowa DNR to prevent issues like this from happening again.

The DNR “will consider appropriate enforcement action,” according to a statement from the state agency.

Katie Peikes is IPR's agriculture reporter