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Published May 02 2012

Petroleum spill cleaned up on river in Wahpeton; focus shifts to source

WAHPETON, N.D. – Crews have cleaned up a petroleum spill discovered Tuesday night on the Bois de Sioux River here and are now focusing on finding the source of the pollution, Richland County Emergency Manager Brett Lambrecht said.

The slick, reported at about 8:45 p.m., was about two blocks long and about four blocks upstream from where the Bois de Sioux River joins the Otter Tail River to form the Red River, Lambrecht said.

The North Dakota Department of Health determined there was no threat to drinking water because of the limited quantity of the spill, which created a sheen on the water, Lambrecht said late this morning.

Officials aren’t sure what type of petroleum product it was, but it may have been diesel fuel, he said.

Firefighters used booms and absorbent pads to contain and soak up the material, he said.

Officials believe the petroleum entered the river through the city’s storm sewer system, perhaps as the result of an accidental spill or intentional dumping, Lambrecht said. It emptied into a small bay on the river where the current isn’t strong, he said.

“So 90 percent of it was all contained to that area,” he said.

Firefighters opened hydrants to flush any remaining contaminant from the storm sewer system, and officials are now trying to find the source, Lambrecht said, adding they believe they have it narrowed to a three-block area.

“We don’t know if it was purposely done or unintentionally done. We’re trying to determine that,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528