By MADISSON HEINL
Center For Lakes & Streams, Grace College
Approximately 325,000 gallons of water used to contain the Warsaw Chemical Co., Inc. fire carried chemicals downhill into Winona Lake on Feb. 6.
The Center for Lakes & Streams responded to the spill immediately and collected several samples from Winona Lake at the scene as well as several days following the incident.
The center tested for 58 chemicals in the lake one week after the spill occurred and sample analysis results revealed no detectable levels of these chemicals. However, several chemicals entered Winona Lake other than those originally anticipated.
The Center for Lakes & Streams sampled the lake near the spill location Friday, Feb. 13, one week after the spill and samples showed normal water quality measurements of dissolved oxygen, pH, and conductivity. Furthermore, none of the 58 chemical contaminants that were tested for were found at detectable levels.
Several chemicals initially entered the lake at high concentrations. These chemicals included n-butyl acetate, ethylbenzene, m,p-xylene, o-xylene, toluene, trichloroethene, and methanol. Initial higher concentrations of chemicals that ranged from 730 to 4,784 ppb were diluted down in the lake following the spill to the range of 0.04 to 0.3 ppb, at the most. These are very small concentrations and well below human health guidelines.
Dr. Nate Bosch, director of the Center for Lakes & Streams, said of the water analysis results, “We are happy that we have not identified any remaining human health concerns related to this spill in Winona Lake. We need to recognize that it could have been much worse and work to prevent these situations in the future.”
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 April 1 to further discuss steps toward action. Mayor Joe Thallemer, in attendance at the meeting, said, “Where might we be if we don’t do anything? . . . We don’t want this to happen again.”
The group discussed both short term and long term prevention measures. Actions discussed that can be enacted immediately included, primarily, providing business education as well as community education, pre-planning for similar events, teaching best management practices, and reaching out to learn from other communities that can be good examples. Theresa Sailor with the City of Warsaw explained, “If we can increase awareness about lakes and how to protect them at all levels, we are going to make a big impact.”
The group also discussed long term solutions. Possible solutions discussed included looking into updating ordinances, discussing containment solutions, pursuing a filtration system and exploring storm water base-flow issues. City of Warsaw Councilmember Charlie Smith said, “I don’t want us to lose sight that it’s not just Warsaw Chemical: There are a lot of potentially bad things that could go into our lakes.”
Chemical measurements will be confirmed by the Center for Lakes & Streams when the lake is fully mixed now that the ice has come off the lake. Potential impacts to wildlife will become fully apparent as the summer months approach.
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.