The Warsaw Chemical fire on February 6 raised several environmental concerns after approximately 325,000 gallons of water used to abate flames carried chemicals into nearby Winona Lake.
Earlier reports estimated about 200,000 gallons of fire flow water were used; however this initial estimate was updated based on new water use information provided by local water utility, Indiana American Water. The Center for Lakes & Streams hosted a group of community leaders including members of the Winona Lake Preservation Association, town of Winona Lake and city of Warsaw on Feb.13.
Director Nate Bosch of the Center for Lakes & Streams at Grace College moderated the meeting to discuss what can be done to address and prevent future events similar to the Warsaw Chemical spill.
The response of local emergency personnel to the fire and subsequent spill was exceptional. Fire crews and other emergency responders collaborated to make wise decisions that would best protect the community.
While the Warsaw Chemical building involved in the fire was designed with about 15,000 gallons of secondary containment capacity in preparation for emergency situations, this capacity was exceeded in this unprecedented situation warranting about 325,000 gallons of fire flow water. Theresa Sailor with the city of Warsaw added, “I think we can all agree that no business intends a fire or release to happen.”
Surfactants, perfumes and blue dyes released into the lake created surface foam, artificial odors, and blue coloration in the water and ice; however, these chemicals are not a current cause for environmental concern. Methanol and potentially other chemicals still remain as concerns for Winona Lake.
Nate Bosch believes that further steps need to be taken by the community, “It’s going to have to be a local effort,” stated Bosch. Councilman Charlie Smith agreed saying, “The main thing we need to do is take action steps moving forward… If another catastrophe starts, how do we stop it? How are we going to deal with it? We are going to have to drive this.” Joy Lohse with the Winona Lake Preservation Association agreed, “While the cause or source of why we are meeting is the Warsaw Chemical spill, keeping pollutants from draining into Winona Lake is a big issue to be addressed.”
The meeting representatives discussed potential steps toward action. Community education is a necessity to prevent improper day-to-day use of the storm drain system and to protect waterways. Additionally, the potential for pre-planning for further similar events, learning how other communities deal with incidents, and identifying high-risk sites in the community can assist in prevention. While several other long-term projects and ideas were also discussed, no plans for large scale action were yet agreed upon at the initial meeting.
The Center for Lakes & Streams collected samples to be analyzed for the presence of chemicals both on Feb. 6 and the following week on Feb. 13. The center is awaiting results of these samples and will continue to study potential impacts of the spill in Winona Lake. A follow-up meeting to further discuss future action will be scheduled in the coming weeks.
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: Update Warsaw Chemical Fire And Winona Lake; 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