GARY | Federal, state and local officials are investigating an apparent oil leak into a major drainage ditch flowing through Calumet Township, Griffith, Highland and Munster.
Lake County Surveyor George Van Til said Thursday afternoon there is a sheen of oil on the surface of Cady Marsh Ditch, but it doesn't appear to be a major spill from any of the area's petroleum pipelines.
He said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, municipal hazardous material teams and his office are trying to stem the flow of oil as well as locate the source, which may be a deteriorated underground tank somewhere near where Whitcomb Street crosses the the ditch.
Cady Marsh is a county-regulated stormwater drain rising near Grant Street in Gary and flowing west through unincorporated Calumet Township, Griffith, Highland and Munster where it joins Hart Ditch.
"Its an important drain. If there was a serious problem, it could ultimately affect the Little Calumet and even Lake Michigan," Van Til said.
An EPA spokesman said its office is working with local officials to mitigate the leak.
Members of the Griffith and Highland fire and public works departments were putting booms in the water to slow the slick's flow downstream.
Van Til said someone reported the leak to the EPA Thursday morning and they contacted him shortly after noon. Van Til said an EPA investigator believes the leak may have started sometime Wednesday because the length of the slick. It was reported as far downstream as Cline Avenue.
Van Til said, "Enbridge already has been out here and shut their pipeline down as a precaution. It doesn't appear to be a pipeline. The leak appears to be leveling off a bit. Tomorrow, the EPA will be out at the site where it might have originated and test underground."
He said the leak doesn't appear to endanger any homes' municipal water supplies along the waterway.
The BP refinery in Whiting and East Chicago and others in nearby Illinois make Northwest Indiana a hub for hundreds of miles of underground pipelines transporting petroleum and natural gas throughout North America. Only Texas has a higher concentration of these pipes.
A BP pipeline cracked in 2011, spilling 31,000 gallons of fuel underground near White Oak Avenue and 175th Street in Hammond. Enbridge pipelines passing through Griffith have leaked oil into the Kalamazoo River in southern Michigan and in Romeoville, Ill.