On July 26, an anonymous caller notified authorities of a pesticide spill at a north central Arkansas golf course. The call indicated an extreme number of dead fish and other aquatic animals in a creek near hole 18 at Rivercliff Golf Course in Bull Shoals, Ark.
Chemical runoff into any body of water, regardless of size, is alarming. Contamination of a small creek could further affect other, more prominent water sources and potentially be detrimental on a larger ecological scale. In this case, the affected creek is a tributary of the White River, a popular destination for trout fishing and one of the region's most important rivers.
The spill actually occurred on Sunday, July 25. An employee applied chlorpyrifos, a commonly used pesticide, to the entire golf course and was left with 15 to 20 gallons of the diluted chemical remaining. The employee poured the remaining gallons on the ground directly adjacent to the creek. He told authorities that he did not think the remaining pesticide would have any effects. He also stated he had used the same dilution previously but had never before dumped leftover chemicals.
Response was immediate as the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) and Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), as well as local authorities, worked to mediate the spill's effects and any further contamination. AGFC netted all dead organisms. Over 6,000 fish, 600 crayfish and four aquatic snakes were collected. The containment was to ensure that trout populations downstream in the White River would not ingest any of the dead organisms. ADEQ along with the city of Bull Shoals removed over 15 cubic yards of soil from the contaminated area. Samples were taken to test for the pesticide's concentration in both soil and water.
The spill is currently still under investigation. There has been no evidence of contamination in the White River. Depending on the outcome of ADEQ's soil and water tests, the case may be turned over to a prosecuting attorney.
Both commercially and residentially, pesticides have become a widely used tool. We use them to get rid of unwanted plants, insects and even larger animals; we often forget, or were never aware to begin with, that these powerful chemicals can often harm unintended organisms.
In the case of Rivercliff Golf Course, the employee in charge of applying the pesticide throughout the entire property was skilled in diluting the chemical. However, he did not know how to properly dispose of any unneeded dilution or was not made aware of the implications that irresponsible disposal would hold for his employer and himself.
This particular chlorpyrifos spill may eventually be considered accidental, but the incident is still rooted in negligence and has already caused preventable environmental effects. Chlorpyrifos is highly toxic to aquatic species. Contamination resulting in a large quantity of dead fish or other aquatic species affects not only the localized ecosystem but can impact other aquatic species downstream, like the White River trout, or become present in predators, like opposums or raccoons. The netting of dead organisms is the only hope to isolate the contamination and end the pesticide's movement through the food chain.