Environmental officials investigate petroleum leak in Raccoon River


The Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Des MoinesPublic Works are searching for the source of a petroleum leak on the Raccoon River near Principal Park.

According to a news release, the DNR began receiving reports of “sheens” on the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers around 1:20 p.m. Officials traced the discharge back to a storm sewer that empties into the rivers near the bridge at Southwest 7th Street. Staffers tracked the petroleum through the storm sewer system but were unable to find the source, the release said.

There are no concerns about drinking water safety, according to Ted Petersen, an environmental program supervisor and DNR spokesman. Even though Des Moines Waterworks sometimes draws from the river for drinking water, the drainage pipe that discharged the petroleum was downriver from Water Works’ intake point. 

“We have a hunch that it was a one-time release,” Petersen said.

Booms were placed in the river to absorb and contain the spill. Petersen explained that there are low-lying parts of the storm sewer system where rainwater and petroleum can pool. Someone might have accidentally or purposefully disposed of fuel or oil in the sewer drains, Petersen said, and the recent round of storms flushed the contaminants out.

Petersen said officials will continue to monitor the site for additional leakage through Wednesday morning. He said the public should avoid any water with an oily sheen and advised canoers, kayakers and others on the water to be careful of booms.

Follow the Register on Facebook and Twitter for more news.  Maya Miller can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter @mmillerDSM.

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