Water advisory issued after chemical fire contaminates Mecklenburg County waterways

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has issued an advisory around the town of South Hill in Mecklenburg County, where a crash caused a large fire at a warehouse storing fertilizer and pesticides.

The incident took place on Saturday, July 6, when a driver crashed into two propane tanks near the Nutrien Ag Solutions warehouse, which stored a variety of chemicals, including herbicides, fertilizers and pesticides.

The resulting fire and efforts to extinguish it led to chemical runoff entering nearby Dockery Creek and Mountain Creek, according to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

State health officials issued water and fishing advisories for the creeks after finding dead fish and chemical traces in the water. Chris Garrett, a local health emergency coordinator with the Virginia Department of Health, emphasized the seriousness of the situation.

“We want to make sure the runoff from this event doesn’t cause a greater issue,” Garrett said.

Residents of the South Hill area are being urged to avoid natural bodies of water near where the fire took place. Activities such as swimming, tubing and kayaking are strongly discouraged, and residents are advised not to eat fish from Dockery and Mountain Creeks caught after July 6.

The health department and DEQ are closely monitoring and frequently testing the water to track the movement and concentration of the chemicals.

“Eventually, Mother Nature will do her thing and wash it all out, but until then, they are encouraging folks to stay away from the water,” Garrett said.

The extent of the contamination remains uncertain.

“The unknown answer is how much got burned off and how much got washed down,” Garrett said.

Isabella Harvey, who lives near Dockery Creek, expressed her concerns about the chemicals.

“I’m pretty sure it would’ve been an advisory, given the evacuation that happened and the pollution they were monitoring,” Harvey said.

The advisory has been issued out of an “abundance of caution,” according to the health department.

“You’re never going to be able to fully 100% get everything out of it, so you’re always going to have that extra pollution, that extra toxic stuff in it,” Harvey said. “So, you’re always going to have that fear.”

While there is currently no evidence of chemicals in the drinking water, residents who believe they may have been exposed to contaminants in the creeks are advised to seek medical attention immediately.

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