LE MARS, Iowa | The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has traced the source of a fish kill in a stream to Wells Enterprises, a Le Mars-based ice cream maker that uses ammonia as a refrigerant.

A large number of fish were found dead in the Plymouth County stream, according to an IDNR news release. After an investigation, state officials announced the spill involved appears to have come from cooling water discharge from Wells' north plant in Le Mars. Wells, which operates two plants in the Plymouth County seat, is the maker of the Blue Bunny brand of ice cream and frozen novelties.

Storm water discharge does not normally have ammonia in it, but the IDNR found elevated levels of ammonia below the Wells discharge pipe. The creek is less than one-quarter mile from the Floyd River.

There were several hundred dead minnows and chubs in the unnamed creek, but no obvious issues in the nearby Floyd. The state agency recommends children and pets stay away from the creek near the ball park south of Iowa Highway 3 until Sunday.

“This is a reminder to everyone that what you pour down a storm sewer or into a street goes directly to a creek and not to the wastewater plant,” said Ken Hessenius, supervisor for the IDNR's field office in Spencer, Iowa.

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County and education reporter

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