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How much the soybean spill in Flat Creek has cost
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Chattahoochee Riverkeeper headwaters watershed specialist Becca Risser stands in several feet of soybeans Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, that were spilled into Flat Creek. - photo by Scott Rogers

The Department of Natural Resources’ Environmental Protection Division estimated nearly 100 fish died after thousands of pounds of soybeans spilled into Flat Creek, according to a report released to The Times.

According to the report, three Norfolk Southern rail cars derailed July 29 on the railyard roughly a third of a mile northwest of the Amtrak depot in Gainesville. 

Norfolk Southern said the train that derailed was servicing the Cargill plant.

EPD said at least one of the rail cars was hauling 200-300 tons of soybeans and roughly a third of that cargo spilled into Flat Creek’s headwaters.

Heavy rains on Aug. 6 and Aug. 8 “likely flushed soybeans farther down Flat Creek,” according to the report.

The dissolved oxygen in Flat Creek near the dead fish was well below the 5 milligrams per liter standard.

The report said there were 21 bluegill worth $2.94 found dead as well as 74 dead mosquitofish worth $59.20.

“It is notable that due to poor water quality, dead fish below the water’s surface were not visible, and this total count is likely an underestimation,” according to the report. “No additional pollutants or pollution sources were identified during the investigation other than soybeans.”

There were also $1,176 in labor and transportation costs for a biologist and technician assessing the scene.

EPD wrote in a letter to Norfolk Southern that it could face up to $50,000 in fines if the soybeans are not cleaned up. The railroad company previously told The Times it had committed to cleaning the spill prior to any law enforcement intervention.

As of Tuesday, Aug. 23, the Environmental Protection Division said no fines had been assessed.

EPD said the cleanup is still ongoing to retrieve the remnants of the soybeans, and there is currently no estimated date for the cleanup to be finished.