An accidental spill of water contaminated with a microbial cleaning agent at the Sara Lee plant Monday evening has caused an unknown amount of the chemical to enter Storm Lake. The environmental impact of the spill is not yet known, and City and Department of Natural Resources officials are monitoring the situation.
Storm Lake Police and Firefighters were called to the Vilas Road area around 8 p.m. Sara Lee staff reported that at approximately 7:15 p.m. a valve was opened in the plant that caused somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 gallons of water to spill out of the plant and into the Sara Lee parking lot. The water contained a diluted amount of Microtox which is a parasitic acid cleansing agent. The majority of the contaminated water flowed into a parking lot storm sewer which then connected to a city storm sewer and ultimately flowed into the lake at an entry point near the intersection of Flindt Drive and Lakeshore Drive.
Storm Lake fighters and Sara Lee staff shored the areas around the storm sewer drains to stop the flow of the contaminated water. The Storm Lake Street Department responded with equipment and personnel and worked in tandem with Sara Lee staff collecting water samples and monitoring the chemical levels of the water in the storm sewer.
The DNR was notified and following analysis of the spill the determination was made that the safest way to handle the spill was to dilute the spilled water further. Street Department personnel flowed large amounts of water from a fire hydrant into the storm sewer system cleaning and diluting the residual amounts which were left in the system. It is unknown how much contaminated water made it into Storm Lake prior to the arrival of first responders.
The Storm Lake Fire and Police departments cleared from the scene at 9:30 p.m. with the Street Department and Sara Lee staff continuing the clean up efforts until late into the night.