Vandalized tank causes diesel spill into Kalamazoo River

COMSTOCK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD/AP) –A storage tank at a greenhouse facility was apparently vandalized, resulting in about 100 gallons of diesel fuel spilling into the nearby Kalamazoo River, officials told 24 Hour News 8.

The spill was noticed Monday night coming from Klooster Greenhouse, 1377 River St., south of Market Street in Comstock Township in Kalamazoo County.

“They have … what we’re told is a 255-gallon diesel tank for their emergency generator, and it appeared the filter had been tampered with,” Comstock Township Fire Chief Edward Switalski said. “They had it (diesel fuel) leaking from the tank into the soil and the soil had immediate access to the storm drain in the parking lot.”

That, he said, flows into the Kalamazoo River.

The affected stretch of the Kalamazoo River is the same that was affected by the 2010 Enbridge spill that dumped 800,000 gallons of crude oil into the river. In comparison, the diesel spill is minor — especially since the tank was not full.

“We’re estimating about a hundred gallons,” Switalski said. “It seems like a lot, but in the big scheme of things, it’s not much.”

It’s not yet known how much diesel fuel flowed downstream in the quick current before the fire department was alerted to the spill.

“We have a high water table currently with all the snow runoff — the river’s running pretty quickly,” Switalski said.

The Kalamazoo River flows from Kalamazoo through Allegan County into Lake Michigan. The Comstock Township Fire Department has alerted Allegan County officials about the spill so they could keep an eye out for any pollution.

“Environmentally, any spill into the river is a problem,” Switalski said. “The river’s obviously a great resource for us but it’s gone through a lot in the last four years.”

Investigators believe someone tampered with the tank and dislodged a filter, causing the spill. The greenhouse owner told the Associated Press it appeared that the leak was caused over the weekend during an attempted theft.

“It looks like a criminal act, so the sheriff and the law enforcement are proceeding with it,” Comstock Township Supervisor Ann Nieuwenhuis.

Klooster Greenhouse shut off the leak and Tuesday removed the tank to cut off the diesel flow at the source. A hazmat team put a boom across the river to stop the flow downstream. They also put pads in the storm drain to soak up the fuel.

Everything should be cleaned up by Wednesday, authorities said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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