Pilot Guest Editorial

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Lake spill is no 'act of God'

The June 2 IBP spill into Storm Lake was not "an Act of God," as it was explained to me by an IBP executive. No, the spill happened because IBP wastewater crud flowed downhill through a city storm sewer. No, there was no containment wall around the plant's storm sewer which could have prevented the crud from exiting toward the lake.

The containment wall, the dike, the dam (or whatever you wish to call it) was built after the 12-inch sewer pipe burst! "Yes," an alarm went off or "No" the alarm failed and didn't go off. Take your pick. It depends upon whom you talk to on this question. No matter, all parties seem to agree that it was an heroic effort on the part of IBP to contain the spillage to a mere 8,000 gallons of pinkish wastewater which may or may not have been dangerous to humans (if one showered after swimming in the lake).

Now, one has to have faith in these reports, because according to the experts, 48 hours was all the lake (with the help of the sun rays) needed to clean itself up.

Signs were posted not to swim and warnings not to eat the fish were issued. We searched for the signs and found a couple. Near one sign, children frolicked in the lake which may or may not have been contaminated.

All of this is being monitored by several government agencies which makes me feel much better, although I did take the precaution to empty my dock fish basket of one legal size walleye and one eatin'-size catfish. When released, the catfish headed north toward the IBP outlet whereas the walleye fled southward. This is perfectly understandable since catfish and walleyes prefer different dinner menus.

Unknown to my wife and me when we moved to Storm Lake eight months ago, waste spills in Storm Lake are not that uncommon. It is hard for us to believe that these are "Acts of God" since he created this beautiful lake for all of us to enjoy in the first place. Lightning strikes and tornadoes may be "Acts of God," but it's a stretch to believe that crud flowing through a city storm sewer was part of his plan for Storm Lake! A plumber, not a preacher, has the answer to IBP's problem. Plumbers will tell you that "crud" flows downhill, or something to that nature. Perhaps it is time for a plumber, not a politician, to be asked what to do, or else, maybe the City of Storm Lake should begin charging IBP by the gallon for waste spills.

The city council can do the math, but 8,000 gallons times $100 per gallon may be a fair fee, and it's probably fair to say if IBP revises its environmental impact plan just a little, a per gallon fee may be cost effective for them.

And after all, a permanent pinkish hue to Storm Lake waters could be a tourist attraction resulting in more dollars in the City's coffers... and after all isn't this what it's all about?

- Stewart Goslinga is a resident of Lakeside.