A precarious cleanup operation is underway near Menomonie after a semi truck loaded with 23,000 pounds of fertilizer crashed into the Red Cedar River last week.
Crews have been working for a week to remove some 600 bags of fertilizer from the river after a semi crossed a median on Interstate 94 March 5, went airborne and plunged through the river ice. Both the driver and passenger were killed in the wreck.
According to Department of Natural Resources Spill Coordinator Tom Kendzierski, about 200 bags have been recovered but he says those have been saturated and with the forces involved in the crash most of the fertilizer has been lost to the river. He says one of the main concerns for the river is ammonia leaching from the fertilizer but preliminary testing shows little harm.
"There really wasn't a whole lot of difference between the upstream site and where the spill happened and downstream."
Further testing will be completed by contractors cleaning up the site. Kendzierski says recovering the cargo has been difficult since the crash occurred next to a busy highway overpass. Because of that, he says, heavy equipment cannot be used and the bags of fertilizer are being removed by hand.