A ruptured pipe and an open valve in a containment basin were among the causes of a kaolin spill that affected two creeks Friday morning near a Thiele kaolin facility in Jefferson County.
According to spokesman Kevin Chambers, of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, the spill was first detected about 7 a.m. at a broken pipeline valve from which “whitewater” containing 3 to 4 percent kaolin solids flowed into a containment basin.
Authorities estimated 100,000 to 110,000 gallons of liquid escaped, but no dead fish or fish kills were detected or reported, he said, adding that there were no surfactants or chemical additives present in the spilled material.
Although the kaolin went into the containment basin, a downstream valve that would have kept it there was left open, Chambers said. Officials believe the valve was knocked open by a tractor mowing grass in the area.
The kaolin then flowed into two waterways: Reedy Creek upstream from Georgia Highway 17 and a portion of Thompson Ford Branch, he said.
The discharge from the basin was halted by 8:45 a.m. and cleanup and repair work remained active Friday evening.
Sampling was under way in several locations downstream from the leak and will continue through the weekend to monitor pH levels, turbidity and other water quality indicators.
Company officials also brought in vacuum trucks and pumps to remove some of the kaolin-impacted water. Crews also emptied the remaining contents of the containment basin and the recovered materials were taken to the company’s wastewater treatment system.