EPC reports on Riverview ammonia leak

11/15/07 Seán Kinane
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Also at this morning’s EPC meeting, the Environmental Protection Commission received a report on this week’s ammonia leak from first responders and EPC scientists.

On Monday, three teenage boys drilled into an ammonia pipeline in Riverview, releasing a high-pressure stream of liquid ammonia.

Ron Rogers, assistant chief of Hillsborough County Fire and Rescue. said that as many as 70 emergency responders at a time used 5.4-million gallons of water to control the leak that was finally capped Wednesday morning. Rogers said the purpose was to direct the cloud of ammonia gas toward the Alafia River and away from neighborhoods.

Tony D'Aquila, director of the Water Division at the EPC, presented preliminary data from the Alafia River for pH, salinity and ammonia concentrations. As of Thursday morning, EPC scientists on the river had not yet seen dead fish.

“They had not found any indication of any fish kill, anything out of the ordinary on the water.”

D'Aquila said that even though there is no immediate threat of a major fish kill, the ammonia could cause a kill later if the dissolved oxygen, or d.o., concentration in the water goes down.

The fact that the lighter fresh water of the Alafia River is floating above the heavier saltwater that enters the river from Tampa Bay might be playing a part in creating a refuge from the ammonia for fish.

Preliminary data from D'Aquila’s team of scientists at EPC have indicated that pH is higher in surface waters than near the bottom of the river, suggesting that the ammonia has not penetrated to the saltier waters near the bottom of the river. But the surface layer of high pH water means there probably is a lot of nitrogen in the river, which could lead to an algal bloom.

Board member Rose Ferlita praised the EPC’s response to the ammonia emergency.

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