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Wildlife agency sues Coors over fish kill.

AP--The Colorado Division of Wildlife sued Coors Brewing Co. last week to recover the value of more than 50,000 fish killed last summer when the company spilled beer into Clear Creek.

The agency said state law places the value of each fish at $35, making the total damages at least $1.75 million. State law gives the agency the right to recover the value of any wildlife unlawfully taken, the DOW said.

The complaint, filed in Jefferson County District Court, said Coors Brewing Co. discharged beer into its wastewater treatment plant on Aug. 24, 2000. The plant stopped operating normally, and 77,000 gallons of beer was released into Clear Creek with little or no treatment.

The discharge killed fish within 7.4 miles downstream on Clear Creek, the lawsuit said. The species that were killed included sand shiners, creek chubs, fathead minnows, longnose dace and largemouth bass.

At the time, wildlife officials said it was the largest fish kill in Colorado in at least two decades. Ten years earlier, a similar brewery accident killed 13,193 fish.

In a written statement, Coors officials said they were disappointed the wildlife agency chose to take legal action. "Over the last year, we have been working very hard with them in good faith to resolve this issue. In fact, immediately after the accident we offered to totally restock the creek to replenish the fish population. The DOW has repeatedly declined this offer, as well as other informal and formal offers we have made," the statement said.

Division of Wildlife Director Russ George said the action was appropriate.

"We have had good faith and earnest discussions with Coors over the past year about the actual damage to the resource and what steps are appropriate to rectify that damage," George said.

"Now that it's been a year, we feel it's our duty as the state's wildlife agency to file the complaint to protect Colorado's aquatic resource and recover damages caused by this discharge. We will continue to meet with Coors to discuss this issue."

Earlier this week, Coors and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment agreed the company would pay a $117,280 cash fine and complete a thorough study of its wastewater plant.

The health department originally ordered Coors to pay $98,000 toward a project to clean up mine wastes in the Clear Creek area. The Environmental Protection Agency criticized that plan.
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Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 3, 2001
Words:403
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