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Watershed management organization will watch for impacts of diesel leak

It's too soon to tell just what kind of effect last week's diesel spill will have on the habitat in the Vermillion River, but watershed specialist Travis Thiel is optimistic about the river's future.

Thiel works with the Vermillion River Watershed Management Organization. He was notified of the diesel fuel contamination when it happened last week and said he's not "hugely concerned" about the fuel doing any long-term damage to the river. He wonders, though, what it did to the bugs and other organisms that were present.

"This was quickly responded to by the city and the MPCA. They were able to control the diesel from getting too far downstream. We're hoping that whatever effects there might be to the biological system will be short-term," he said. "While (the fuel) is present there, the possibility exists of some of it changing the water components."

The VRWMO does testing in the river on an annual basis, but those tests aren't done until late summer. Given the fact a section of the river was contaminated, Thiel said they will take extra samples upstream and downstream to check whether the contamination had spread.

"If there would be any long-term impact, it should still show up by that time, but I can't guarantee that," he said.

For the most part, the diesel floated on top of the Vermillion's water and was soaked up with absorbent booms or cleared out by a cleanup crew. However, the possibility exists that the habitat could still be affected. Dead fish floating in the water or washing up on the shores would signal some level of toxicity in the water, Thiel said. He hopes anyone who sees something like that would contact the Vermillion River Watershed Management Organization to let them know.

"We would be relying on people to report that," he said. "It seems like people walk near there often enough that we tend to get reports when things happen down there."

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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