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Crews working to stop spill’s spread to Rock River

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
June 7, 2011
— Cleanup crews were working Monday to contain a truck stop spill that officials say dumped several hundred gallons of diesel fuel into a wetland that drains into Saunders Creek north of Edgerton.

A Wisconsin Department of Commerce official at the gas station Monday said the agency still was investigating the spill, which caused diesel to pour into a storm runoff pipe that feeds into wetlands just west of the travel plaza parking lot along Highway 51 at 568 Haugen Road.


Local authorities discovered the spill Sunday and began efforts to control and clean it. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources continued to work Monday to contain the spill at the wetland and prevent more of it from fanning west through a drainage area that empties into Saunders Creek.


The creek flows south through residential Edgerton and empties in the Rock River.


“We’ve got to stop it from spreading to the surface water. We’ve got to get a hook on it,” said DNR environmental spills specialist Mike Schmoller.


A half dozen environmental cleanup crews used a tank truck to suction about 3,500 gallons of water and diesel fuel from the wetland Monday while crews in a boat laid out oil pads to soak up slicks.


Schmoller estimated that several hundred gallons of diesel have spilled into the wetland. Some parts of Saunders Creek already have been oiled by outflow from the spill, officials said, but nearby ground water and wells have seen no threat, said Schmoller.


He said a separate wetland just south of the travel plaza was untouched by the spill.


Schmoller said while crews are concerned about its environmental impact, the spill poses little threat to public health. Still, he said people should stay out of Saunders Creek this week.


Lakhbir Singh, who owns the Edgerton Travel Plaza, said Monday that he still was trying to learn how the spill happened.


He said he recently had a contractor upgrade underground diesel tanks at the plaza, and during that work crews drilled a well near the tanks to draw down the water table.


Singh said he believes that while crews were pumping out the water, they learned it was contaminated with diesel or oil. Singh said he believes the tainted water then somehow wound up in the travel plaza’s storm drain, which empties into the wetland.


He wasn’t sure how that might have happened.


Schmoller could not verify Singh’s speculation on the spill, but he said cleanup crews were flushing the travel plaza’s storm drain and were attempting to learn whether it still was spilling diesel into the wetland.


Schmoller said Singh is responsible for the remaining cleanup once the spill is under control.


Authorities learned of the spill Sunday afternoon after residents along Albion Road complained of a strong odor of diesel fuel around Saunders Creek, Edgerton Fire Chief Brian Demrow said.


Demrow said his department discovered a slick of diesel fuel on the creek where it crosses beneath Albion Road. He said diesel was pouring into the creek from a culvert adjacent to Albion Road that drains storm water around the travel plaza.


Demrow said his department and hazardous materials crews from Madison on Sunday traced the diesel to its source. Among other efforts, they laid oil pads at Albion Road and several other crossings, including sites in residential Edgerton, to trap any diesel flowing in the creek.


He said as of Monday, there were no reports of oil slicks or a diesel odor at parts of the creek in Edgerton.



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