Authorities Searching for Source of Sheen on Walnut Creek

CLIVE, Iowa  --  Ricquel Milakovich lives right next to the Greenbelt Trail and Walnut Creek, which she, her two-year-old daughter, and another child she takes care of often use.

"Every single day we go for walks and bike rides and the kids play in the water," said Milakovich. "They look for fish and bugs, turtles, and yeah, they're down in the water."

That is precisely why Milakovich wishes authorities would have given her a heads up about the situation.

"I guess notify us...in some way," said Milakovich. "I mean, it's used so frequently by multiple people a day, all different ages, and I didn't know anything about it, so that's definitely alarming."

Neighbor Curt Hollebrands also wishes he would have been notified by the authorities.

"A friend called out of the blue and said, 'did you guys have a fuel spill in Clive?'" he said.

That's the kind of thing Hollebrands cares about.

"We have Clive almost literally in our backyard here backing up to Walnut Creek, and I'm part of this Walnut Creek Watershed Coalition, which is a kind of a concerned group of neighbors in Clive and Windsor Heights and Des Moines," said Hollebrands. "We work to help clean up the Greenbelt area and keep the watershed clean."

But according to the authorities that have been investigating the situation and trying to trace what they're calling a "sheen," at this point there are more questions than answers.

"Right now, we're not sure exactly what the source is," said Bill Gibbons, an environmental specialist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. "It's coming from somewhere. They have some different things here that could be sources. We just haven't been able to verify that yet."

Urbandale Fire Chief Jerry Holt also made it clear there is currently a lack of answers.

"At this point, we have not pinpointed to where we know that it's coming from," said Chief Holt. "Our suspicion is the Pilot truck stop. That's where we started the investigation. It's definitely coming from the pipe the Pilot would drain into, but we have not identified a specific event, a spill or anything like that, at Pilot that would have been the culprit, so we continue to try and find the source."

The investigation began on Sunday, after the Clive Fire Department received a call from someone saying they had smelled fuel in the creek. Officials were able to trace a sheen upstream to a storm drain just west of the Pilot Travel Center near Douglas Avenue and Interstate 80/35 in Urbandale.

Fire officials placed absorbent booms near a low-lying area to prevent additional material from entering the creek. DNR staff said after investigating the site on Monday, they agreed the sheen smelled like diesel fuel, but it did not look fresh and there is no ongoing spill. The DNR says it will return to investigate further on Tuesday.