April 5 2013 12:00 AM

A ‘monster rain’ is needed to wash away excess hydraulic fluid

A map showing the extent of the BWL hydraulic fluid spill. The red mark shows the length of the oil spill. The yellow stars are the areas where booms have been placed. Courtesy photo

Friday, April 5 — A “monster rain” is needed to wash the excess hydraulic fluid that spilled into the Grand River earlier this week into absorbent booms, an official with the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council said today.

“The three booms in the river are sopping up most of what’s in the river,” said Julie Powers, executive director of Mid-MEAC, an environmental group. “The challenge is this: We’re in a drought. We haven’t had a lot of rain. It’s not washing much off the banks, and a lot of this stuff is clinging to vegetation on the riverbanks. We’d really appreciate a monster rain. That would be awesome because that would wash away the bulk of the rest of it into the booms. “

As of today, local and national weather reports say that there is a 50 percent chance of rain on Saturday and 30 percent to 40 percent chances of rain throughout the middle of next week.

On Sunday evening, between 300 and 500 gallons of hydraulic fluid spilled into the Grand River from the Board of Water and Light Eckert Power Plant. Three absorbent booms were placed in the water to capture the fluid.

BWL officials have said the three booms installed at Adado Riverfront Park, Cherry Hill Park and the North Lansing Dam will remain in the water over the weekend. They will assess the situation further next week.

“The good news is because it’s hydraulic fluid — it’s not like this is heavy crude oil or something like that — it’s not going to cling and stick as easily, which makes it easier to clean up,” Powers said.

She said most of the fluid “floats on the surface of the water” and also dries up in the sunlight. So, the combination of this week’s sunshine and rain this weekend would help the cleanup, she said.

In Powers’ opinion, the BWL has responded well to the situation.

“The Board of Water and Light are not the bad guys here,” Powers said. “Yeah, a bad thing happened, but there are a lot of people working on it. They’re investigating and doing analysis.”

“Right now though, we need to wait for rain. That’s really what we have to do. And we have to let time and Mother Nature continue to do her good work.”

Powers gave the comments at a Mid-MEAC Land Use Lunch in downtown Lansing earlier today.