I-Team: Sulfuric acid leak killed thousands of fish in the North River


DEERFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Thousands of fish were killed in a Franklin County River this weekend. 

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection said a sulfuric acid leak killed the fish in the North River. 

The North River was polluted and there was sulfuric acid apparently in the river and yet no one told them to get out. Shelburne residents discovered thousands of dead fish along the banks of the North River Sunday.  

According to MassDEP, a tank leaked sulfuric acid into the North River from the Barnhardt Cotton Manufacturing plant in Colrain Sunday morning. Barnhardt told MassDEP that the tank leaked acid for less than three hours.  

A Charlemont farm owner, troubled by discovering dead fish in the North River, told the 22News I-Team, residents should have been notified about the acid leak right away. 

“I’m really concerned, one waking up and seeing a bunch of dead fish, and the emergency response was just putting up caution tape over by where people recreate swim and fish,” said Daniel Green, owner of Good Bunch Farms. 

There are concerns about the acid leak’s impacts, and the river’s future, as some residents said it’s happened before. 

“What are the long-term impacts and what is this company going to do in the future to prevent this accident from happening,” said Kevin Parsons, board of directors at the Deerfield River Watershed Trout Unlimited. “It’s inexcusable that it happened 20 years ago, and it happened again.” 

MassDEP tested the water and said the results showed normal pH levels, so it’s safe for swimming. They are working to determine what caused the tank to release the acid, and how much of it is in the river. They said they’re not expecting any more fish to die. 

The 22News I-Team spoke with Barnhardt’s Plant manager Tuesday. He couldn’t speak with us on camera, but he said the company is working with MassDEP. 

MassDEP said the sulfuric acid leak did not impact the Shelburne Falls or the Griswoldville Water Districts’ wells along the North River. 

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