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DNR, city and county work to find source of Shelby County diesel spill

  • 5/28/2021 2:21:00 PM
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HARLAN: DNR staff responded to a diesel spill in Harlan Thursday, meeting with local officials as they worked to track down its source.

The Shelby County Emergency Management Service and Harlan Fire Department investigated a report of diesel odor and red sheen in a branch of the Nishnabotna River Wednesday night. Emergency staff placed booms with absorbent pads in the tributary to catch floating fuel.

Thursday morning, city staff lifted manholes looking for the fuel’s source and testing air quality underground. All air levels were normal and they did not see any sheen or diesel in water flowing under the manholes.

Onsite Thursday, DNR staff noticed a residual sheen and odor in the stream beginning north of the intersection of Sixth Street and Cyclone Avenue, where a stormwater drain outlets and the tributary begins. The sheen disappeared by the time the tributary reached the west entrance of the Shelby County fairgrounds.

The source of the diesel spill is still unknown, but it may have originated on the north side of Harlan if it came through the stormwater drain. Rainfall Thursday morning likely washed much of it downstream. While it’s unknown if diesel reached the river, DNR staff saw many live fish swimming in the stream.

At DNR’s request, the city placed more booms in the stream. The city and DNR will continue to monitor the situation and look for the responsible party.

DNR investigators encourage people to call in spills and fish kills as early as possible to the 24-hour spill line at 515-725-8694. Early reporting helps DNR staff determine the pollutant source before it washes downstream.