Officials praise Storm Lake response
A leaking tank sent up to 270 gallons of fuel oil into Poor Farm Creek in Storm Lake over the weekend, killing an undetermined number of fish.
Employees at a business on Lake Avenue noticed a fuel oil smell on Saturday, but did not report it until 3 p.m. Monday. An old fuel tank in the basement of the building had leaked into a sump pump, which then pumped to a floor drain and flowed into a storm sewer. Buena Vista University manages the building.
On Monday, oil dry was spread on the floor to absorb fuel on the concrete. Absorbent materials were placed to collect the fuel oil in the storm sewer and in Poor Farm Creek, a tributary of the Raccoon River.
Absorbent packets were placed downstream at two locations in the storm sewer where fuel was visible. Booms were placed at the outlet of the storm sewer in Poor Farm Creek, where a sheen and odor were present. Booms were also placed at several places along the creek, and in the creek about two miles downstream of the outfall. No sheen or odor were observed at the farthest location.
The fuel was contained prior to the confluence with the Raccoon River. DNR Environmental Specialist Julie Sievers said a number of chubs were killed from the spill; however, she said the fish kill was apparently limited to Poor Farm Creek.
The material apparently did not flow toward the lake. No fish kill has been evident in the Raccoon River, and no long-term impact on the stream is expected.
"There does appear to be some fish kill," Sievers said Wednesday morning at the spill site along Poor Farm Creek. "I think it's limited to Poor Farm but I don't know that. We're still investigating."
Sievers said she did not know whether the DNR would send a fisheries specialist to further investigate the fish kill.
The absorbent booms have contained most of the fuel oil in the creek, and Hydro Klea Emergency Response from Des Moines was onsite Tuesday to clean up the spill.
"The city guys have done a wonderful job of cleaning up," Sievers said of the Storm Lake Street Department.
Kim Krebs, Hydro Klean environmental technician, agreed with Sievers that City of Storm Lake had helped prevent what could have been a far more extensive spill.
"I think these guys did an excellent job of containing it," Krebs said. "I think they kept it all up here in this area" as far as Poor Farm Creek before the tributary reached the Raccoon. "We're going to clean up any little spots that are still along the bank."
Krebs and two other Hydro Klean technicians continued to work Wednesday to clean up the spill. He explained that the company uses special absorbants that will just pick up fuels and hydrocarbons and not water. He said three drums were filled with absorbant packs. "I would say we've probably got the majority of it," Krebs said.
The City of Storm Lake required Buena Vista University to remove the oil dry and fuel tank on Monday. Due to possible contamination and interconnection with the storm sewer, the university will also be required to remove the floor drain of the building.
"We continue to cooperate and assist city and state officials in cleaning up this unfortunate accident," university president Fred Moore said in a campus statement. "DNR officials are hopeful that the quick response of everyone involved will allow this spill to be completely contained and cleaned up
The DNR will continue to investigate the situation.