The Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department reported a chemical fire at Warsaw Chemical around 11 a.m. Friday, February 6. Homes and businesses within 1,000 feet of the building on Durbin Street were evacuated shortly after the fire was reported. Reports cited that approximately 200,000 gallons of water were used by fire crews to contain the chemical fire.
As a result, this water carried chemicals into nearby Winona Lake primarily through the storm sewer network. Chemicals carried into the lake included undetermined amounts of methanol, various surfactants and perfumes, and less than one gallon of blue dye.
Staff from Grace College’s Center for Lakes & Streams responded to the spill immediately on Friday to assess the incident and assist in formulating a strategy concerning how to best protect Winona Lake.
The Warsaw Chemical building has since been secured and all residual materials are contained. Materials will be reused or recycled if possible, otherwise all other materials will be properly disposed of. Environmental Remediation Services was able to capture 22,000 gallons of contaminated water from firefighting activities for proper disposal. Storm sewer flows resulting from snow melts over the weekend were monitored; no further impact to Winona Lake was detected.
While the surfactants, perfumes and blue dyes released into the lake have created surface foam, fragrant smells, and blue coloration in the water and ice, these chemicals are not a current environmental concern.
According to Dr. Nate Bosch, Director of the Center for Lakes & Streams at Grace College, the most important environmental concern is methanol. “Methanol is our current focus in assessing potential damages to Winona Lake,” said Bosch, “Methanol lowers oxygen levels in water, and the fish need oxygen in the water to breathe.” Beginning Friday, Winona Lake was aerated in efforts to both reduce the presence of methanol through evaporation and to provide additional oxygen to fish in the lake. Aeration was stopped on Monday when oxygen was confirmed at normal levels. Measurements taken by the center of the storm sewer network and Winona Lake Tuesday morning showed normal oxygen levels holding steady, lessening some concerns about methanol.
While a few dead waterfowl along the lake have been reported, this is a regular occurrence and not reason for immediate concern as no effects to other wildlife have yet been observed. However, the Department of Natural Resources is prohibiting ice fishing on Winona Lake until further notice.
Looking toward the future Bosch stated, “Our center will continue to monitor oxygen levels in Winona Lake for the foreseeable future, and we will also analyze water samples collected during and after the spill to determine potential contaminate levels and any further causes for concern. We also look forward to working with the City of Warsaw and the Winona Lake Preservation Association to prevent anything like this from happening again.”
The Center for Lakes & Streams at Grace College conducts applicable research, engages and educates residents, and collaborates with other organizations in efforts to make the lakes and streams of Kosciusko County cleaner. For more information or to support their efforts, visit lakes.grace.edu.
Related Articles: Mayor Thallemer On The Warsaw Chemical Fire; Center For Lakes And Streams: Warsaw Chemical Fire And WInona Lake;Warsaw Police Issues Statement On Warsaw Chemical Fire; Chemical Fire Releases Potentially Hazardous Materials Into Winona Lake; Fire At Warsaw Chemical