7/1/2014 2:35:00 PM Milky discharge in creek was sugar from Hershey plant
Workers from Hershey, Bolin Enterprises Inc. and the City of Robinson worked to clean up a “whitish” compound that got into the storm drain and in the creek north of Locust Street Friday. The creek was sandbagged at the bridge near Washington Park and Washington Grade School, and vacuum trucks sucked the discolored water from the creek. Hershey said the compound was sugar residue that got into the storm drain. (Tom Compton photo)
An accident at the Hershey Chocolate plant "sweetened" a local creek Friday.
City of Robinson and Hershey employees respond to a leak of sugar into the storm sewer and a creek that runs from the vicinity of the plant, across Locust Street and past Washington Elementary School.
Around 9:15 a.m. Friday, Public Works Superintendent Lawrence Quick received a telephone call from a resident at 804 W. Locust, informing him there was a whitish-looking compound exiting the new storm sewer pipe in the creek on the north side of her house, and that it had an odor.
"I immediately left to inspect the scene," Quick said. "Upon arrival I noticed it had a sour Hershey waste-stream odor. I have smelled it many times before, so I immediately recognized it."
At first Quick thought maybe the sanitary sewer was plugged and backing up into a storm drain somewhere.
"I called my foreman and he brought the jetter truck to the corner of Main and Allen, where they high-pressure-cleaned that block of sanitary sewer from Allen to Reed on Main," Quick said. "While looking down into the storm inlet located in front of Pulliam's Funeral Home, I noticed the suspect discharge was running into the inlet from the storm drain from the west. I followed the discharge all the way to Hershey's storm water inlet located midpoint in the manufacturing plant on the east side of their building."
Quick contacted the operator who runs the industrial pretreatment plant for Hershey and told him what he had found. He asked if something in their process had changed or maybe the wrong valve had been opened. Quick was told nothing different had been done, but they would check with maintenance.
Hershey's maintenance supervisors and crew investigated the discharge and thought it may have had something to do with a previous bag-house cleaning operation. The supervisors wanted to see the creek, and met Quick at the 804 W. Locust location where the initial call emanated from.
After surveying the creek, the supervisors chose to call the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and report the incident, and to sandbag the creek to keep the discharge from flowing further downstream. They also put absorbent booms across the creek in several places.
Quick had city street crews fill 50 sandbags and take them to the creek. The creek was sandbagged at the West Locust location and also at the furthest downstream area that the flow had reached, directly behind WES.
Hershey called an industrial vacuuming company to bring vactor trucks to clean the creek. They said they would also flush the creek after vacuuming out all they could.
When he went to the Prairie Street creek crossing at around 1 p.m. Friday, men and equipment from Bolin Enterprises Inc., Casey, were vacuuming water out of the creek.
A call to the Robinson Hershey plant for comment was referred to corporate headquarters in Hershey, Pa.
In an email this morning, Jeff Beckman from Hershey's public relations department stated, "While conducting routine cleaning operations at the Robinson plant, a small amount of sugar was released into the stormwater drainage system from the roof of the plant and ended up in an unnamed tributary to Sugar Creek. Hershey immediately began a thorough cleanup operation of the release and notified Illinois EPA. The cleanup has been effectively completed and Illinois EPA has indicated they are not concerned by this small release of sugar."