SYRACUSE — Syracuse residents downwind of the small channel off Harkless Drive may be smelling more than just fried foods lately.
The channel directly behind the Frog Tavern recently had a large amount of vegetable oil spilled into the water during the weekend of Aug. 1. This is the fifth spill of the year in the Kosciusko area.
Typically, the local fire department takes care of containing a spill and the property owner is responsible for the clean-up, usually with the help of government agencies such as Indiana Department of Environmental Management. Mickey Scott, Turkey Creek Township Fire Department fire chief, said he was not aware of any of his firefighters responding to the spill. Looking back through old calls, Scott said, “As far as I can tell, we were never contacted about it.”
Ed Rock, emergency management director for Kosciusko County, said he became aware of the spill through an email received Wednesday, Aug. 5. At that point, the situation had already been addressed by the proper agencies. “If we’re not informed, then we can’t respond to it,” said Rock.
Home owners in the area are still seeing the lasting effects of the brown, oily substance. The bottoms of boats are coated with a slick covering that isn’t easy to remove, according to one homeowner. The unnamed homeowners felt the situation is taking too long to address.
IDEM Public Information Officer Dan Goldblatt had this to say: “We are investigating the source and the possibility that it was related to the ventilation fans. We have not yet released a formal report on how the oil got into the lake. As far as cleanup, there is not a lot that can be done. Since it is cooking oil, the small quantity released does not pose an immediate danger to humans or the environment. The oil will eventually dissipate and break down naturally in the water. Our main focus is to ensure another release does not happen.”
The Center for Lakes and Streams also provided this information via email: “The Center for Lakes & Streams responded to a spill on Lake Wawasee reported on Aug. 4. The spill was near the intersection of Bowser Road and Harkless Drive. The cause of the spill was cooking oil running into a storm drain on the property. The center took water samples at the scene; however, due to the nature of the spill, the Kosciusko Health Department is taking all future action to address the incident and its impacts.”
It seems the cleanup of this spill will linger another week as the brown oil floats on the channel’s surface, leaving homeowners to wonder what kind of lasting effects it will have on the channel and the boats floating in the muck.