St. Joe River Not Effected, but City Prepared for "What If"

By Rachel Martin

November 2, 2011 Updated Nov 2, 2011 at 10:15 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) -- Following Sunday's explosive fire at Momper Insulation, Indiana's NewsCenter asked city officials "what if" contaminates got into the St. Joe river, the source of Fort Wayne's drinking water?

Would the city of Fort Wayne be prepared to handle such an emergency?

Mary Jane Slaton, Spokesperson for Fort Wayne City Utilities, said if ever a water contamination emergency occurred, the city is prepared.

The city has a water filtration system that runs 24 hours a day, every day, including holidays, and is constantly monitored. The water goes through several stages of filtration using sand, carbon, and chlorine, and is softened using lime. Slaton said the water is also tested at every stage.

If toxins like cyanide, the chemical found in Junk Ditch, ever contaminated the water, Slaton said the filtration system can be altered to combat such chemicals.

Slaton said if worse comes to worse, the city would work with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) and attack the situation like they did with the Momper Insulation fire Sunday.

"We're always prepared for emergencies. We have contingency plans, so there wasn't anything that happened here [at Momper] that we would not have been prepared for if this had been in the St. Joe river," Slaton said. "But again, this was not in our drinking water source. Our water is safe and secure."

Any contaminated water effected the St. Mary's river, not the St. Joe. Rich Hackel, On Scene Coordinator for IDEM's Emergency Response Unit, said areas of the St. Mary's, right around Junk Ditch, were tested and showed clear results. All contaminates are safely contained within Junk Ditch.

The strech of Junk Ditch is approximately three quarters of a mile long, part of which spans into West Swinney Park. Hackel said the river is about 30 miles wide and five feet deep. He said all together, Junk Ditch contains about 3.25 million gallons of water.

Hackel said Tuesday contract crews would begin building the water filtration system and filtering the water on Wednesday, however crews are a day behind schedule. Crews set up plumbing in Swinney Park Wednesday to experiment and test the water flow. The water filtration process is expected to begin Thursday afternoon. Hackel said Swinney Park will be closed to the public for approximately 13 days while the filtation process is taking place.

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