Greenhouse manager to pay $60,000 for river pollution

Krieger pleads guilty for 2012 oil spill among worst in state history


The operations manager of a Jefferson greenhouse was recently ordered by a judge to pay about $60,000 in fines and restitution for the estimated 800 gallons of oil that spilled from his business into the North Raccoon River in 2012.

Kurt Krieger, 54, of Jefferson, pleaded guilty last month to negligence in discharging a pollutant into a waterway, according to court records. He faced up to a year in jail, but District Associate Judge Adria Kester suspended the jail term and imposed two years of probation, the fines and restitution when she sentenced Krieger on April 15.

The oil leaked from the open spigot of a Krieger Greenhouses oil tank in mid-September 2012. It’s unclear why the spigot of the 20,000-gallon tank was open. Krieger burned the oil for heat.

The oil flowed under Westwood Drive through two culverts and seeped into the river.

Workers, over the course of about two weeks, removed 800 gallons of oil, about 4,000 gallons of oily water and tons of dirt and sand from the river and nearby areas in a roughly 15-mile stretch from the west side of Jefferson. They used long, absorbent tubes to dam the river’s surface to keep the oil from flowing farther downstream.

“This has been the most labor-intensive spill I’ve ever seen,” Alison Manz, an Iowa Department of Natural Resources officer of 15 years who oversaw the cleanup, said at the time.

The spill was reported by a passerby on Sept. 13, 2012.

Krieger Greenhouses initially tried to sidestep blame for the spill and put advertisements in local newspapers that offered a $500 reward “for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those persons responsible for this act of vandalism.”

Co-owner Andy Krieger said at the time that high school students opened water spigots at houses in nearby neighborhoods about the same time, and that “there’s a good chance” the students opened the valve on the tank as well. But Jefferson Police Chief David Morlan said the allegation lacked evidence.

No fish kills were reported, but two birds were found with oil on them.

It’s unclear from court records what role Kurt Krieger played in the oil leak.

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