Inks Dam hatchery tightens safety regulations after investigation

FROM STAFF REPORTS

The Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery is located at 345 Clay Young Road off Park Road 4 in Burnet County. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

The Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery is located at 345 Clay Young Road off Park Road 4 in Burnet County. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

BURNET — Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery staff will follow a stricter set of operations guidelines following an investigation that confirmed improper exposure and procedures connected to pesticide and disinfectant use as well as asbestos abatement.

The facility, located at 345 Clay Young Road just off Park Road 4 in Burnet County, provides catfish for tribal management programs in New Mexico and warm-water fish for stocking of U.S. Forest Service lands in Texas.

The new guidelines were unveiled in November as a result of an investigation by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel and a report by the U.S. Department of Interior.

OSC reported that the allegations came from an anonymous whistleblower, who informed investigators that supervisors at the facility:

• required employees to apply Virkon aquatic disinfectant on their bare skin daily, contrary to the manufacturer’s guidelines;

• required employees to cut and dispose of asbestos pipes without proper protective equipment or using proper disposal methods;

• and used Turf King herbicide without obtaining the required state permit.

The case resulted in specified safety and training guidelines and a secondary asbestos abatement investigation.

“In light of the agency’s investigation and prompt attention to corrective actions, I have determined that the report meets all statutory requirements,” wrote Henry J. Kerner of the Office of Special Counsel in a media release dated Nov. 14.

A report by the Department of the Interior, the office that governs the hatchery, noted that an unrelated June 2016 investigation uncovered “similar wrongdoing.”

According to the OSC, the accused supervisor retired, but U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regional management failed to sufficiently address deficiencies.

As a result, specified follow-up actions ordered include:

• following manufacturers’ guidelines when using hazardous materials;

• adopting procedures such as specified application regimes when using pesticides;

• adhering to OSHA regulations with regard to informing personnel and taking precautions connected to work safety and exposure;

• providing adequate training and regular discussions with personnel about the use of hazardous chemicals and pesticides;

• and adhering to state guidelines when handling and disposing of asbestos-containing materials.

Also, employees and volunteers will undergo additional medical monitoring due to potential exposure.

editor@thepicayune.com

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