The Elkhart City Fire Department cleaned up an oil spill early Monday morning, April 28, but there's no reason to be alarmed - it's a normal occurrence.
"Because there's been industry along this waterway for a century and a half, we still have oil in the ground that still leeches out from time to time," Shaun Edgerton, assistant chief of the Elkhart City Fire Department, said in a phone interview Monday morning. "But it's not a hazard. It's not an unusual occurrence."
The oil "appears to be aged coagulated petroleum," Barry Sneed, public information officer with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), said in an email Monday afternoon. "The area has had past releases in the stretch from no longer existing historical industrial sources."
Most of the time, the oil in the river just looks like foam – especially when the river is high and it comes over the dam near the Elkhart Fire Department station on Waterfall Drive, Edgerton said.
But this time, the combination of the water level, water current and wind pushed all of the oil to one spot behind the McDonald's on Main Street. The oil slick looked like "light brown frothy scum," Sneed said.
The fire department was called out to the oil slick around 6:30 a.m. and estimated it to be 40 by 15 feet wide. They called IDEM and the Elkhart County Health Department to run standard tests. A boom was placed to prevent the oil from spreading, and an environmental contractor was called to determine the source. The slick was cleaned up in about an hour and a half, Edgerton said.
"There's really no need to be concerned or alarmed about it," Edgerton added. "It's an unavoidable risk of living here in Elkhart, Indiana, on the Elkhart River."