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Batavia residents warned to stay away from Mahoney Creek

Officials are warning Batavia residents to stay away from Mahoney Creek after a foam spill was discovered earlier this week.

The foam is dangerous to humans and animals if ingested, and its impact on surrounding soil and wildlife is unknown at this time, Batavia officials said in a statement on the city’s website. According to an update on the website, foam was seen in the creek as recently as Thursday.

According to officials, the leak is not expected to affect the city’s water supply because the city does not use water from the creek or the Fox River to which the creek connects for drinking water.

Batavia City Manager Laura Newman said both the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the city, through a third-party consultant, conducted their own tests of the creek’s water to determine the impact of the spill.

“As a city, we will address this and ensure that the parties responsible for this contamination do everything they can to restore the area,” Newman said.

Officials said the foam was likely aqueous film-forming foam, or AFFF, used to extinguish liquid fires. Specifically, they said the chemical was Ansulite Low Viscosity 3×3 AR-AFFF Foam Concentrate.

The foam appears to have come from a Flint Group building on North Kirk Road, according to Newman. Flint Group is a global manufacturer of printing and packaging materials.

In the statement made by Flint Group, it was stated that the building’s fire extinguishing system was activated last Friday evening, probably due to an electrical fault in the system, and fire extinguishing foam was sprayed outside the building.

The foam then flowed into an on-site retention pond designed to capture stormwater runoff, according to the release.

While the fire suppression system was shut down as soon as the discharge was noticed, a separate malfunction caused a valve in the containment basin to open and the foam to leak into the storm sewer, the statement said. This leak was not discovered until Sunday.

“Flint Group remains committed to handling this incident responsibly and implementing the necessary measures to mitigate any environmental impacts and continue as a respected employer in Batavia,” the statement said.

A Flint Group spokesperson was contacted Thursday, but they declined to comment beyond what was stated in the statement, which can be found on Batavia’s website.

The city of Batavia heard reports of foam in the river over the weekend, but officials did not connect those observations to the incident at the Flint Group building until the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency contacted the city Monday morning to request information about the leak. According to Newman.

City officials said after realizing the possible connection, they hired environmental consulting firm GZA GeoEnvironmental to advocate for the city and its people, conduct their own testing and supervise responsible parties during cleanup efforts.

A sign for Mahoney Creek stands in Batavia, where the waterway runs through the city’s east side. City officials are warning residents to stay away from the creek following a chemical foam leak earlier in the week. (R. Christian Smith / The Beacon-News)

Testing to determine the impact of the foam leak will likely take several weeks to complete, Batavia officials said in a statement on the city’s website.

Once those tests come back, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency will work with the responsible parties and the city’s environmental counsel to develop a remediation plan to be completed by those responsible, according to Newman.

Officials encourage Batavia residents to report seeing foam in the stream by calling 630-454-2002 and leaving a voicemail with the time and address of the sighting.

rsmith@chicagotribune.com

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