City: Failed plug caused Columbia pool to leak

Chlorinated water killed fish in Bear Creek

Bear Creek fish kill

COLUMBIA, Mo. - The city of Columbia says a failed drain plug at a city pool led to a liquid chlorine leak into a creek that killed fish.

Columbia Parks and Recreation staff were made aware of a leak that had occurred July 13 at Albert-Oakland Family Aquatic Center on Blue Ridge Road but were initially unable to find the source, the city said in a news release. The leaked liquid got into Bear Creek, where it killed and sickened minnows and gizzard shad, the city said.

The faulty drain plug was found after several days of searching, the city said. The failure allowed pool water that spilled into the pump room to enter the creek and its intermittent nature made it hard to trace, the city said.

Diane Oerly lives along the Bear Creek, and is part of the Missouri Stream Team. She reported the fish kill to the Department of Natural Resources after she smelled chlorine in the creek and later saw dead fish. 

Oerly said she has smelled chlorine coming from the creek several times. She also said she was disappointed the city could not find the source of the leak sooner. 

"I believe they knew better and I'm just disappointed that the management allowed them to make a false claim, but I guess I'm relieved that now they are willing to tell the truth," she said. 

The city did not clarify the exact location where the chlorine entered the creek, but Oerly believes it may have come from a pipe that drains into the creek.

"Because the smell is always strongest right in this area, and there's an old PVC pipe there, just up river or up stream, so I think that's the source," she said. 

Missouri Department of Natural Resources staff told ABC 17 News on Tuesday that the pool had leaked chlorine into Bear Creek. DNR and the Department of Conservation opened an investigation into the leak July 15.

The plug has since been replaced, according to the city. Staff also moved the drain line so that pool water will no longer enter the creek in the event of a plug failure. 

"I want this city to be a good place to live. Not just for people, but for the wildlife that belong here as well," Oerly said. 

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