Explosion, fire, chemical spill threaten wildlife

June 4, 2009 6:10:25 PM PDT
In Monterey County, an explosion, fire and chemical spill are threatening wildlife and the national marine sanctuary.

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There are four miles of toxic green water in Salinas. It is the result of an explosion and fire at this warehouse on Friday night when 550,000 gallons of water used to put out the inferno went down nearby storm drains along with a green surfactant stored in the warehouse.

"Surfactants are a general class of chemicals; soaps are a surfactant, apparently this type of surfactant is toxic to aquatic organisms," Monterey County Health Department spokesperson Bruce Welden said.

The Department of Fish and Game says there has been a large fish kill in the reclamation ditch but it is not yet saying whether the death toll will be in the hundreds or even thousands.

"Dead fish, some dead amphibians, some aquatic invertebrates," Fish and Game spokesperson Don Kelly said.

The concern is that the contaminated water would make its way to Elkhorn Slough, a wealth of wildlife, or even Monterey Bay and the national marine sanctuary.

Federal state and local agencies are all working together. An earthen dam was built on Monday to contain the water. Thursday, that dam was reinforced with metal sheeting. Next, the water will undergo a rigorous treatment and testing process before it's released.

Federal authorities are sounding confident the threat is over.

"Certainly the quick response by the both the city and county quickly mitigated any threats to the public health and the environment," EPA spokesperson Steve Calanog said.

The water treatment and testing process could take up to a week.

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