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State: Diesel migrated further into Lake Storey

Absorbent booms have been deployed at Lake Storey after red-dye diesel leaked from a generator on state-owned property.
Jane Carlson
Tri States Public Radio
Absorbent booms have been deployed at Lake Storey after red-dye diesel leaked from a generator on state-owned property.

The state-owned generator that malfunctioned had no current operational purpose.

Hundreds of gallons of red-dye diesel fuel leaked from a generator on state-owned property, then into a storm drain and tributary that flows into Galesburg’s Lake Storey.

That’s led to extensive remediation efforts along several coves and removal of vegetation at the city-owned lake – as well as evidence that diesel fuel migrated further into the water.

Water access to Lake Storey remains closed.

TSPR obtained Illinois Environmental Protection Agency documents on the leak via a Freedom of Information Act request.

According to a situation report from the IEPA’s Office of Emergency Response, the generator’s fuel pump malfunctioned at 2100 S. Lake Storey Road.

That is the site of the former state Animal Disease Laboratory, which closed in 2017 after losing accreditation. The building is now surplus property owned by the Illinois Department of Central Management Services.

The generator was in an enclosure behind the facility, which is typically not occupied.

“The building is a surplus property and the generator does not serve any current operational purpose for the property,” reads a Feb. 13 IEPA situation report.

Following the malfunction, diesel fuel flowed from a corrugated pipe into the storm drain, into a creek, and then another 200 feet to the outfall of Lake Storey.

Initial response

The Galesburg Sanitary District discovered the leak while working in the vicinity of South Lake Storey Road and Log City Trail on Feb. 8 and contacted dispatch just after 3 p.m.

The caller had already determined the leak was coming from 2100 S. Lake Storey Road, near Carl Sandburg College.

“There’s a large generator that runs on diesel fuel and it looks like it’s been leaking out of the tank, and may have been doing it for a while,” the caller said in dispatch audio obtained by TSPR. “So it’s making it down to the creek and into Lake Storey.”

The Galesburg Fire Department responded around 4:22 p.m. and first attempted to slow the leak by shoveling snow into the storm drain, according to the incident report.

Then the fire department’s hazardous materials team responded and deployed absorbent booms to the storm drain and creek.

Booms were also deployed at the mouth of the creek into the lake.

State officials were contacted and were on site the following day. A remediation contractor, EnviroServe, was brought on to lead cleanup efforts. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency was also notified.

Oil sheen

A Feb. 9 IEPA situation report states rainbow oil sheen and some of the red-dyed fuel was seen on the water in the creek where it meets the lake.

EnviroServe installed a containment boom where the creek meets the lake and impacted vegetation was being removed, according to the report.

A Feb. 13 report notes additional oil sheen was seen that morning in a cove east of the main operation. In addition, a small area of “thicker oil sheen” was seen in the lake upwind of that location, indicating “an unknown amount of diesel fuel that had migrated further into the lake.”

The same day, the city of Galesburg announced it was closing access to the lake “out of an abundance of caution.”

After the discovery, EnviroServe deployed additional containment booms and was able to survey the entire lake by boat because ice had melted.

Despite the oil sheen seen further out in the lake, a Feb. 14 report from EnviroServe indicates the majority of the contamination was contained to three coves and their banks.

As of last week, the company had removed 12,000 gallons of water and fuel from Lake Storey, using vacuum trucks and frac tanks. There was not an estimate for the amount of fuel removed.

EnviroServe had also deployed 101 soft petroleum-absorbing soft booms, two river-level hard booms, one creek-level boom, and 150 feet of sheen-absorbing Pom to mitigate the spill.

Last week, a CMS spokesperson said the leak was considered to be “relatively small” – less than 300 gallons – and affected less than 5% of the lake.

The city of Galesburg continues to monitor the progress of remediation efforts at Lake Storey, which they expect to be completed within one to two weeks.

In a statement, the fire department said they remain satisfied with the state's "prompt and thorough response."

"To err on the side of caution, the city will continue to keep Lake Storey closed to water access until remediation has been successfully completed. The city appreciates the State of Illinois' efforts and cooperation throughout this process," the statement reads.

The city is collaborating with the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to ensure the situation is fully resolved.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Jane Carlson is TSPR's regional reporter.