Fish habitat dying in Medicine Park due to chlorine leak

Medicine Park_Hundreds of dead fish -- that was the scene Sunday in Medicine Park. Reports say a chlorine leak from the Lawton Water Treatment Plant made the creek water so toxic, all the underwater wildlife is expected to die.

Medicine Park's mayor says it's been a problem since the middle of last week and, Sunday a visit from a couple state departments put a stop to the leak, but not soon enough to save the fish.

Mayor Dwight Cope says the town is devastated. The mayor says it took thousands of volunteer hours to build the habitat for these fish -- and after stocking more than a thousand trout in the creek in November, he says the loss will make it hard to recover.

Cope says the leak at the plant sent so much chlorine downstream it was more than 200 times the allowed limit. "About half the fish right now appear to be dead, and others are not doing well," Cope said.

The plant's superintendent, Dave Herring, says the "finished water tank" had a leak that released the chlorinated water into the creek -- which Cope says is like sending tap water downstream. And since there's no other water flowing to flush it out, the fish in the swimming hole took the hardest hit -- even the resilient ones who have called medicine park home for years. "Catfish are bottom feeders, so yeah, for it to get through the whole creek, and catfish are pretty hearty according to the state fish and wildlife people, and it takes a lot to kill them, and we've got several of them floating around too," Cope said.

But it's not just the fish. While the birds and turtles will be ok -- along with the fish, they expect to lose all the shellfish as well. And Cope says even the rocks have turned white because the algae has already died. "This is our livelihood, this is our source of income, tourism, and," he said, "we just recovered from the flood, not completely, we're still working on that, but then something like this comes along, and puts us back another step or two."

For now Medicine Park has to do without ripples in the water. But when the leak is fixed -- Mayor Cope hopes the City of Lawton will pay to replace the fish they've lost. "I hope seriously that the City of Lawton will step up and do the right thing," he said. "We've been working on relations with them, and they've not always been good, and this will be an opportunity for them to step up and do the right thing. And I hope they will."

Cope says this isn't the first time this has happened. Back in 2003 he says the same tank leaked -- but that time they tested the water before putting in their stock of fish, so none of the fish died that time.

The plant has pumped the water out of that tank for now, and Herring says they will meet tomorrow to discuss a permanent fix.

As for the rest of the creek -- the mayor says once you test the water past the car bridge, it seems to be ok.