U.S. Water News Online
GOLDEN, Colo. -- Coors Brewing Co. will spend more than
$500,000 to make amends for a beer spill in 2000 that the state says
killed more than 50,000 fish in Clear Creek.
An agreement between the company here and the Colorado Division of
Wildlife calls for Coors to:
The settlement is far below the $35-per-fish ceiling set by state
law -- an amount that could have brought a $1.7 million fine. But
it's rare for the agency to go to court for the maximum amount,
Division of Wildlife spokesman Todd Malmsbury said.
The number of fish that were killed was a sticking point in the
settlement talks. While the Division has put the number at more than
50,000, no figures were included in a news release, nor in a
memorandum of understanding.
"Determining the exact number of fish killed in accidents can be
difficult, depending on stream flow, legal access, and climate," the
agency's news release said.
After a year of failed talks, the Division of Wildlife sued over
the fish kill in state court in August. But discussions continued,
resulting in an agreement trumpeted by both sides.
"As a Colorado company with roots in this state, we believe this
agreement will benefit Colorado's natural resources, our company, and
Coloradans," said John Schallenkamp, Coors vice president of
engineering and technical services.
State wildlife officials said the value of the settlement could be
far more than $500,000 if the wetlands project proves to be a model.
Workers will employ a variety of wetlands, using different plants
and soils. They'll evaluate the ability of the wetlands to remove
chlorine from wastewater. The project deadline is Jan. 1, 2004.
"The wetlands project has the potential to benefit Colorado's
waterways and fisheries for decades to come," said Division of
Wildlife Director Russ George.
The settlement follows a separate one reached in August between
Coors and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
for violations of clean water laws related to the beer spill.
That agreement included a cash fine of $117,280 and an order that
the company undertake a thorough study of its wastewater plant to
prevent a repeat offense.
The penalties stem from an Aug. 24, 2000, incident, when a new
operator mistakenly sent 77,000 gallons of beer to the facility's
wastewater treatment plant, instead of to beer-aging tanks.
By early the next morning, the wastewater plant was overwhelmed,
and was discharging highly polluted, oxygen-depleting water into
Clear Creek. Dead fish included yellow perch, green sunfish, sand
shiners, and smallmouth bass.
A beer spill from Coors in 1991 killed roughly 13,000 fish. In a
settlement with wildlife officials then, the company agreed to
improve sections of fish and wildlife habitat in and along five miles
of Clear Creek, at a cost of about $25,000.
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