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Was Fort Wayne creek flowing with milk?

Thursday, November 29, 2012 - 12:01 am

Some Fort Wayne residents who live near the Spy Run Creek believe the stream was flowing with milk earlier this week.

Several residents of the Brookview neighborhood noticed a milky white substance in the creek Monday near State Boulevard, said neighborhood president Michelle Briggs Wedaman. Alarmed at the thought of a chemical spill, they called her.

“It was scary for people to see,” she said. “We thought maybe it was chemicals.”

Wedaman said a Fort Wayne sewer maintenance worker told her that the substance was in fact milk, and that a sewer pipe connected to Prairie Farms Dairy on Lima Road may have overflowed, spilling into the creek.

But Frank Suarez, a spokesman for Fort Wayne City Utilities, said Wednesday that city officials do not know exactly what was in the creek or where it came from, though he confirmed that a nearby wastewater sewer overflowed Monday.

“We don't know what the substance was or where it came from,” Suarez said. “It does appear that there was an overflow, but we don't know what caused it.”

A spokesman for Prairie Farms did not respond to a voicemail seeking comment.

While Suarez could not say whether the substance was indeed milk, he said companies can discharge industrial waste – such as water used in production – into wastewater sewers, just as household waste goes into the sewers.

Suarez said city officials notified the Indiana Department of Environmental Management of the issue. City workers also performed a flush of the sewer, he said.

Wedaman said the creek had cleared up by Tuesday. Neighbors hope the substance was milk, not chemicals, but are still waiting for more information from the city, she said.

“It's reassuring to be told it's milk,” she said. “Obviously many residents were highly concerned. Hopefully it's milk and not some unknown substance.”

Prairie Farms has faced environmental scrutiny by the city in recent years. Between 2010 and 2011, the company was listed as being in noncompliance with the city's pre-treatment requirements for wastewater disposal, but it worked its way back into compliance by February 2011, according to News-Sentinel archives.

In 2000, Prairie Farms was cited for discharging excessive oil and grease into city sewers.