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Columbus family distressed after manufacturing plant spill contaminates creek

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Posted at 6:30 PM, Mar 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-02 20:49:26-05

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the amount of oil-contaminated water that entered a creek in Bartholomew County. RTV6 regrets the error.

COLUMBUS — Oil is still visible in a creek in Bartholomew County more than a week after nearly 55,000 gallons of oil-contaminated water spilled into it from a nearby manufacturing plant.

According to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the Feb. 23 spill at NTN Driveshaft resulted in coolants and cutting oils mixing with water and then moving through floor drains where they spilled outside the facility and into nearby waterways.

Booms continue to collect oil from the creek that runs behind Shelia Stephens' home.

"This is our legacy to our grandkids," Shelia Stephens said. "My daughter walks her dogs and crosses this creek and walks back in the back. We own 80 acres, and this goes straight through it."

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Oil contaminated a creek following a spill at NTN Driveshaft in Columbus.

Photos Stephens submitted show the reddish-brown oil flowing in the water that runs through her property and others who live nearby.

"Oh my gosh, yes, we are heartbroken. They've destroyed my whole property," Stephens said.

NTN Driveshaft vice president of administration Barry Parkhurst said the company is doing what IDEM has advised it to do with regard to the clean-up efforts and it apologizes for the spill.

A spokesperson for IDEM said cleanup contractors are using vacuum trucks to collect and properly dispose of the contaminated water. However, Stephens said crews have not reached her home yet.

IDEM does not have an estimation on how long the cleanup process will last, and they asked residents to avoid the creek while crews continue their work.

"We want the contamination cleaned up. We want our creek back," Stephens said.

Read a statement from IDEM below:

NTN Driveshaft in Columbus, Ind. had a fire water main break that flooded the plant floor. As part of the production process, metal working coolants and cutting oils are drained from machines into floor trenches, which return the fluids as part of a coolant loop. Those trenches were flooded and the coolants and cutting oils mixed with the water then moved through floor drains and discharged to the storm drains in the parking lot to a retention basin. That basin drains through a culvert under CR 300 W. The company has hired environmental contractors who have established containment through the use of skirted boom and petroleum absorbent boom. Cleanup contractors are using vacuum trucks to collect and properly dispose of impacted waters.

Approximately 270,000 gallons of fire suppression water was released into the plant. From that, approximately 55,000 gallons of water that was contaminated by oils and coolant left the plant through a door, flowed across some pavement, and made it into a storm drain. This drain led to the creek. IDEM staff on-site have not observed any dead fish.

On Friday, there was some accumulation of contaminated product in a lowland/floodplain area along the creek. Recovery of this product took place over the weekend and the contractor for the RP is continuing product recovery in the creek this week. It is not known exactly how long the cleanup will take, but the contractor continued recovery of accumulated free product today. We ask that residents avoid the creek while cleanup crews continue their work.

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