Diesel hauler fills wrong tank, causes spill at state park

By: - July 7, 2022 4:15 pm

A diesel hauler overfilled a tank near Trapper’s Bay State Park and contaminated the water in April. (Photo by Jacob Simonsen/Iowa DNR)

It was a case of mistaken identity: Someone hauling diesel fuel tried to refill the wrong tank — which wasn’t empty — and leaked an estimated 600 gallons near a state park in northwest Iowa, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The April spill was near Trapper’s Bay State Park in Lake Park, which lies west of Okoboji. It caused a sheen on the bay and began seeping into nearby Silver Lake, but the environmental impact was limited and there was no obvious fish kill, said Jacob Simonsen, an environmental specialist for the DNR who investigated it.

The fuel hauler for Wessel’s Oil Company, of Palmer, was tasked to fill a tank in a different city but “somehow ended up being in Lake Park and filled a tank there that was already full,” Simonsen said.

The hauler noticed the leak but didn’t recognize the extent of it, he said. Someone else reported it later when the diesel had gone into the water.

The company that owns the property with the mistaken tank — Sunrise Farms, of nearby rural Harris — used a vacuum truck and absorbent pads to removal the fuel from the water after local officials and DNR staff tried to contain it.

“They had nothing to do with it, but they really went out of their way to help,” Simonsen said of the company.

Wessel’s Oil Company agreed to pay a $6,000 fine for the spill, according to a recent DNR administrative order. The contaminated soil was excavated.

“Despite being aware that the tank had been overfilled, the driver that was responsible for the fuel failed to inform the proper departments of the hazardous condition, triggering an emergency response from multiple agencies upon discovery of fuel in Trapper’s Bay and Silver Lake,” the order said.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register. His investigative work exposing police misconduct has notched several state and national awards. He is a longtime trustee of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, which fights for open records and open government. He is a lifelong Iowan and has lived mostly in rural western parts of the state.

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