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Police investigate Sunshine Mills spill into Toot’s Creek

An organic human grade fat used in the production of dog food at Sunshine Mills spilled into Toots Creek Thursday night, and Sunshine workers will spend much of the weekend cleaning up the mess.

Sunshine Plant Manager Mike Yearby said a chicken fat substance that covers the outside of dog food was unknowingly discharged into the stormwater drain while workers were cleaning up an area Thursday night.

“It was warm water mixed with chicken fat,” Yearby said. “It’s no different than dumping bacon grease down the drain, but we want to clean it up.”

The plant manager said every effort has been made to clean up the spill.

Friday afternoon workers were going in and out of the creek area putting down hay bales as an aborbent material to separate the fat from the water.

“We’ll continue to do it and hopefully will be done by Saturday,” Yearby said, explaining the hay bales allow the water to pass through, while “the chicken fat hangs up in it.”

The race is on to clean up the spill, not because it presents any danger to humans, plants or animals, but because Yearby said, “it will start smelling out in this heat.”

He said area residents had contacted the dog food plant after seeing a film on the water in the creek.

“They were concerned about their dogs eating it. But it’s not harmful, it’s just nasty smelling, and that’s why dogs love it so much,” he added.

Acting Halifax Police Chief David Irby said he was called to investigate the spill Friday after a nearby resident reported several men on trucks going in and out of the woods carrying hay bales to the creek.

After speaking with management at Sunshine Mills, Irby said he confirmed there had been an organic spill into the creek, and Sunshine employees had been sent in to dam up the creek with hay bales.

Irby said he contacted Mark Estes with the Halifax County Service Authority who came to the scene of the spill and confirmed the spill did not involve a toxic substance.

Estes said he believed the substance was organic and made of some type of grain or flour.

Irby reported the spill to the Department of Environmental Quality Friday afternoon.

“I don’t believe it was anything toxic. It might stink, but I didn’t detect any smell,” he said.

Irby described the creek as having “a swirling brown mass on top of the water about the width of the creek, about six-feet long.”

“Sunshine said it didn’t pose any danger to humans, wildlife or the environment,” Irby said. “It’s just something used to make the dog food.”