Vail fish kill still under investigation; state determining applicable violation
No public health threat identified by state toxicologist
VAIL — An investigation into the source of a recent contamination spill in Mill Creek is still underway, according to a joint announcement released Tuesday by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Eagle County Public Health and Environment, Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, town of Vail, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The spill triage effort was spearheaded by Colorado Public Health and Environment, which received a report from Vail Resorts into its Incident Report Hotline on Sept. 20. Colorado public health coordinated with Colorado Parks and Wildlife for an initial investigation Sept. 21 and conducted a follow up inspection on Sept. 24.
Colorado Public Health said based on discussions with Vail Resorts, the agency has learned that the spilled water to the river is a combination of potable water and pond water with algaecide, which is toxic to fish.
As of Tuesday, Colorado Public Health said it is still investigating the incident in coordination with local authorities and Parks and Wildlife to determine what violation of the state’s Water Quality Control Act may be associated with this occurrence and the responsible parties.
Public health toxicologist Kristy Richardson said the state is disheartened to learn of the contamination event on Mill and Gore creeks.
“The contaminated water that contained a chemical algaecide is toxic to fish at high levels, which is likely what led to the dead fish,” she said. “When diluted, the chemical is not very toxic for humans and mammals, so we don’t believe there was a public health threat nor would there be an ongoing health threat.”
The most significant area of impact was in Mill Creek near Pirateship Park in Vail Village, downstream to the confluence with Gore Creek, and downstream on Gore Creek to the International Bridge, according to Parks and Wildlife and the Town of Vail.
“Agencies including Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Eagle County Public Health and Environment, Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, Town of Vail and CDPHE have joined together in working to collect fish, algae, aquatic macroinvertebrates and water chemistry samples in the affected stream segments to help identify the short-term and long-term impacts of the spill,” the town of Vail said in the release. “Staff from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Town of Vail environmental sustainability and Eagle River Water & Sanitation District have been documenting the impacts to aquatic life, which includes dead fish, algae and aquatic macroinvertebrates.”
Parks and Wildlife recorded 120 dead fish in the incident.