Thursday, Apr 26, 2018
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Swan Creek polluted by 2 spills this week

Blue dye, oil found in Lake Erie tributary


Blue dye from Pro Pac Industries in Maumee flows through Swan Creek through in Swan Creek Metropark.

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Swan Creek, a western Lake Erie tributary that flows into the Maumee River near downtown Toledo, has been polluted by at least two spills this week.

The first one originated about 11 a.m. Wednesday in a connecting waterway, nearby Heilman Ditch in Maumee. It temporarily gave the ditch and the creek a bright, bluish hue. According to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Toledo Environmental Services, that spill was blue dye that got away from Maumee-based Pro-Pak Industries, 1125 Ford St.

On Thursday, oil from an unknown location was found in at least Swan Creek. It was not immediately known if the oil also was in Heilman Ditch, or another waterway. At least one oil boom was deployed along Swan Creek to capture whatever oil cleanup crews could get. It was not immediately known if it was a spill from an oil drum or a ruptured pipeline — or how much oil was at large.

“There are still a lot of unknowns here,” Ohio EPA spokesman Dina Pierce said Thursday night after relaying information from her latest telephone briefing with that agency’s emergency on-scene field coordinator, Mike Gerber.

A boom was not initially deployed because cleanup crews, which included contractors and officials from the U.S. EPA, Ohio EPA, Toledo Environmental Services, and the U.S. Coast Guard, thought they were just dealing with ink that Pro-Pak uses for its packaging.

Booms are effective at removing oil, but not most inks. Inks don’t rise above the surface of a water body like oil. About all officials can do when it comes to ink or dye is to let it mix in the water column and dissipate on its own, Ms. Pierce said.

“It’s diluting pretty quickly,” she said.

Tim Murphy, Toledo Environmental Services commissioner, said the dye had temporarily elevated Swan Creek’s ammonia levels to near-lethal levels for fish, posing a risk to white bass and other species that are often found in the creek.

No large die-offs were reported. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were monitoring the incident.

By evening, the ammonia levels had receded to near-normal levels, Ms. Pierce said.

“There is nothing we can do right now because it is in the whole water column,” Mr. Murphy said.

He said it “was some really concentrated dye on the site that got dumped over and worked its way into Heilman Ditch in Maumee, and that dumps into Swan Creek.”

Contact Tom Henry at:

or 419-724-6079.

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