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Settlement Reached for Saline Branch an Salt Fork, Ilinois

Date Posted: November 7, 2007

A settlement has been reached with the responsible parties for a 2002 fish kill along the Saline Branch and Salt Fork of the Vermilion River in Illinois. As part of the settlement, a total of $491,000 will be provided to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and State of Illinois to restore fish and wildlife habitat.

The Saline Branch connects with the Salt Fork of the Vermilion River which flows through much of Champaign and Vermilion Counties in east-central Illinois. The 2002 fish kill was the result of boiler cleaning substances that were released into a sewage treatment facility. The facility was overwhelmed by the high concentrations of ammonia in the cleaning substances and an unknown amount of ammonia was discharged into a ditch that leads to the Saline Branch. 

Ammonia is highly toxic to aquatic life. Approximately 100,000 fish and other forms of aquatic life were killed. In addition, endangered bats and a variety of migratory birds were harmed by the loss of the fish and benthic macroinvertebrates which are important food sources. Benthic macroinvertebrates are animals that live on the bottom of a lake or other body of water and are tiny, yet large enough to be seen without a microscope, and do not have a backbone.

All mussel glochidia being carried on these fish were lost. Glochidia the larva of freshwater mussels of the family Unionidae. These larva live as a temporary parasite in the gills or on other external parts of fishes. No fresh dead adult mussels were discovered. The Salt Fork is the most western part of the range for the federally listed endangered clubshell (Pleurobema clava). The last recorded observation of clubshell in the Vermilion River system is in the Middle Branch of the North Fork. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with the State of Illinois to recover clubshell populations in the Vermilion River system. 

Contacts:
Michael Coffey (309)757-5800 x206

Links:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:
    The Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program
    Midwest Region - Natural Resource Damage Assessments
    Federally-listed Endangered and Threatened Species in Illinois

U.S. Department of Justice - Consent Decree

Illinois Department of Natural Resources: State-listed Endangered and Threatened Species in Illinois

More information on mussels:
    List of threatened and endangered mussels.
    Learn about the Mussel life cycle (requires free Flash player).
    Missouri State Unio gallery (images and video of freshwater mussels)

Last updated: February 13, 2013