ROACHDALE -- On Sunday, April 15, the Roachdale Fire Department contacted the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to report a white substance running out of a drainage tile in northern Roachdale.
The tile flows from a city storm sewer, underneath the Crop Production Services property and out the other side. It leads to a creek, which flows into a small private lake.
The origin and chemical makeup of the substance is unknown.
Barry Sneed, a public information officer for IDEM, told the Banner Graphic the storm drain at CPS has been blocked to keep from draining off the property.
IDEM and CPS are each testing the substance to determine its chemical composition and the potential harm to the environment.
Although IDEM is looking into the possibility that the pollutant comes from CPS, located at 108 E. Railroad St., that has not been confirmed.
Sneed said results revealing the chemical should be available next week.
It is unknown how long the substance has been flowing into the lake. The owner of the affected lake, which is about 1.5 to 2 acres in size, reported to IDEM that he has noticed increased algae in recent years.
When tested, it was determined to be blue-green algae, a potentially harmful bacteria. It is unknown whether the algae growth was caused by the substance.
Excessive algae growth can be caused by nitrogen, a common component of inorganic fertilizers. The CPS facility in Roachdale houses crop protection products and fertilizers for storage and distribution.
The creek, Sneed said, was blocked off from the lake and cleaned. Contaminated water has been vacuumed for disposal, which usually occurs at a wastewater treatment plant. It has since been reopened.
The environmental implications are unknown. IDEM observed no fish kill in the lake. In excess, algae can deplete the oxygen in the water, which can result in fish kills.
In rare cases, toxin-producing blue-green algae can lead to sickness and death for other animals, including livestock and dogs. The owner has been advised to not let anyone have contact with the lake or eat any fish from it.
Patrick Nellenbach, CPS manager of operations compliance, said it will be difficult to determine where the substance flowed from because of the maze of pipes beneath CPS.
"There are a number of historical pipes under our property," Nellenbach said. "We don't have a good idea when they were installed or where they come from."
He added that there are numerous pipes, some from the city, coming from many directions that meet up underneath the CPS property. He said it is possible that the substance originates before reaching CPS.
Calls to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources were not returned by press time. The DNR was on scene because the incident involves a lake and aquatic life.
As a precaution, the Putnam County Health Department plans to test the drinking water wells to ensure they have not been impacted.
Sneed said responders are still working to determine the best long-term plan for correcting the problem.
CPS has been actively contributing to research and solutions. Nellenbach said that CPS did not construct the facility, and have been on that site for six or seven years.