Portion of South Fork Peachtree Creek turns white after milk supply line breaksA line containing milk at a soft serve ice cream company broke on Feb. 23, spilling milk into the South Fork Peachtree Creek . Photo by William Powers
This story has been updated.
Greater Decatur, GA — The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division is investigating after a milk-supply line at a soft-serve ice cream company on DeKalb Industrial Way broke, turning a portion of South Fork Peachtree Creek white.
Residents noticed the strange color on Feb. 23 and began posting numerous photos on social media. Stephen Ramsden, a resident who spoke to a DeKalb County water employee at the scene, said the employee told him what happened.
“Apparently, the [Georgia Soft Serve Delights] company on DeKalb industrial Way had a whole milk supply line break, and they dumped thousands of gallons of whole milk into the creek. Nothing to be concerned about, and the color should go away soon,” Ramsden wrote in the Medlock Park neighborhood Facebook group, relaying what he was told at the scene.
The Georgia Soft Serve Delights company is located on DeKalb Industrial Way. The milky color had mostly disappeared as of Feb. 24 when a Decaturish reporter visited the company’s front office. An employee who answered the door there said he was not authorized to speak to the press, but mentioned DeKalb County had responded and given the company the all-clear.
DeKalb County, however, said they did not respond to the scene.
“We would’ve reported it to EPD,” a spokesperson for the county said.
But a spokesperson for EPD contradicted that statement.
“I spoke with our watershed compliance staff as well as Emergency Response, and there have been no reports to EPD about a spill of milk or ice cream,” the spokesperson said. “Our staff is currently investigating the allegations.”
According to an article by Tri State Environmental services, milk is not a harmless substance if it enters a waterway.
“Milk is considered a pollutant primarily because as large volumes of milk breaks down in the water, it creates a high biological oxygen,” the article says. “If a spill of a large volume of milk were to occur, the response protocols are to prevent the release from entering any water body by physical methods. If the spill reached the water, regulatory agencies, both state and federal, would be monitoring for oxygen levels and could perhaps attempt to aerate the waters if oxygen levels dropped too low.”
In an article about a milk spill in 2017, the Des Moines Register wrote, “Since milk has a high organic content, it can cause fish kills in streams. Oxygen levels in the stream drop as bacteria break down the milk. When milk concentrations are high, the resulting oxygen sag can kill fish and other aquatic organisms like crawdads and insect larvae.”
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