An Oil Spill Focuses Attention on the Problems of a Man-Made Recreational Lake

Gary F. Bennett
George R. Kunkle
Elliot J. Tramer
Charles E. Stoops
Rolf H. Scheidel

DOI: 10.2190/X4K4-50L2-K0R7-M3H1


When a runaway diesel engine fell into a turntable pit at a railroad maintenance facility, its oil tanks ruptured releasing 4,000 gallons of No. 2 diesel oil that subsequently flowed through sewers to an agricultural stream that led to an inland, man-made lake; two days later the lake residents awoke to find "wall to wall" oil covering the water surface. The oil quickly disappeared, but not the anger of the property owners who sued the railroad for $1.2 million to dredge the oil-containing sediments "from the lake bottom," claiming not only that the spill had added oil to the benthic sediments but also chronic pollution from poorly designed and operated wastewater treatment units had impacted the lake. To obtain data for the pending court suit, the defense attorneys assembled a team of scientists and engineers who used a systems approach to evaluate the lake, its water quality inputs into it, and impact of the oil on it.

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