Substance in Lake Michigan draws rangers, fire department to lakeshore

2013-06-17T14:12:00Z 2013-07-12T19:41:17Z Substance in Lake Michigan draws rangers, fire department to lakeshoreTimes Staff nwitimes.com
June 17, 2013 2:12 pm  • 

PORTER | Heather Wheele noticed dead minnows along the water's edge at Porter Beach and noticed a film in the water, but she and her 4-year-old daughter, Lily, waded in anyway.

"When we got out, we noticed there was like a black dirt ring around our waist and it was in my daughter's hair and on her forehead because she dove underwater," Wheele said.

Shortly after they got out, park officers came along the beach telling people to stay out of the water.

"We had already decided we weren't going back in anyway," Wheele said.

As Lily enjoyed playing in the sand, Wheele said she lives in Porter and comes to the beach three or four times a week.

National Park Service rangers, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Coast Guard, Porter County hazardous materials team members and the Porter Police and Fire departments were investigating the oil-like substance mixed with shiny metallic flakes floating in Lake Michigan. The substance was reported just before 2 p.m. Monday at Porter Beach.

Bruce Rowe, supervisory park ranger/public information officer at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, initially said the area affected was about 50 feet wide by 50 feet long, but Porter Assistant Fire Chief Todd Allen said it appeared the material had spread from Dune Acres to the state park.

Allen said the initial investigation showed the material wasn't oil, but officials hadn't determined what it is.

"It's like a dust that is keeping together with glittery metallic shavings," he said. "A couple of kids came out of the water with the glittery substance on them, but there aren't any injuries. Everybody is unhappy to not be able to get in the water."

Ambulances were standing by at Porter Beach and the state park. People were still being allowed to use the beach area.

Rowe said the Geological Survey and the Porter hazmat took samples, but the identity of the material probably won't be known until Tuesday. Originally located along a quarter-mile stretch centered on Porter Beach, the substance had moved to the pavilion area of the state park by 4 p.m., Rowe said.

The hot weather brought Nikola Garotic and Elizabeth Oyervides to the beach from Chicago.

"We were in the water for 10 or 15 minutes and then the water looked nasty," Oyervides said. "I told him we should get out. I don't want to be in here."

After driving for an hour to enjoy the water, Garotic said the couple might go to a nearby pool instead of using the lake.

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