A chemical discharge from the Alliance Wastewater Treatment Plant last Tuesday killed dozens of fish in nearby streams and now state investigators are looking into the cause of the incident.

Video showed red water flowing from the plant’s discharge pipe into Beach Creek and the Mahoning River with dead fish near the shore in Alliance, Ohio.

“It involves a mistake, and we want to be sure we know why that mistake happened and it doesn’t happen again,” said Alliance Safety Service Director, Mike Dreger. Dreger said city workers conducting a test added too much ferric chloride to water being discharged from the plant.

Ferric chloride can be used to control algae-producing phosphorus, but so much was pumped into the water that pH levels dropped below state regulation, resulting in water that was too acidic for fish to survive, Dreger said.

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“They believed that we were pumping the rate that I wanted, but it turned out it was not the rate, it was a much higher rate, and they overfed,” said Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent, Kimberly Laquatra.

Dreger said over about a 20-minute period, an estimated 200 gallons of the chemical flowed into the streams that feed Berlin Reservoir.

Laquatra notified the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), which examined the waterways Wednesday. She said ODNR officials reported counting more than 100 dead fish. Dreger said there was no risk to humans.

The city used a vacuum truck and skimmers to try to remove excess materials from the streams. Laquatra said the plant used caustic soda to increase pH levels, which returned to normal within hours of the discharge.

“Testing was done of the river, as well as our plant. All dissolvable oxygen levels are back to normal, pH levels are normal,” she said.

City officials said water quality monitoring remained ongoing. It’s investigating the incident, and employees are expected to face discipline, Dreger said.

“Probably more than anything we want to put things in place so there are safeguards to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Dreger said.

An EPA spokesperson said the cause of the release was still being investigated. The city may face a fine from the EPA for violating state discharge regulations.

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