City and state officials spent Monday investigating the discovery of six 55-gallon barrels that were found on property near Fairview Golf Course.
St. Joseph resident Roger Garber discovered the barrels in a creek embankment while out playing disc golf across from the golf course.
“I was down on hole 15 and there’s a creek running through there. I had thrown my disc over the side of the creek and there’s a bridge. So, I walked across the bridge to get my disc and to my surprise on the other side of the creek there’s four 55-gallon drums buried and rusted,” Garber said. “I called the hazmat or whoever takes care of it and they came down here pretty quick, so I’m glad about that.”
Two other barrels were discovered once members of the city’s parks department and Buchanan County emergency management came to assess the situation.
The area where the barrels were found is part of Whitehead Creek and it is believed that large amounts of rain seen recently exposed them. Officials said the barrels may have been there for about 40 years.
“We came down, we’ve got Bill Brinton here from the county who contacted the Department of Natural Resources. We’re asking them to come down and take a sample of the gunk that’s in the barrels and it appears to just be mud,” Jeff Atkins, assistant director of the St. Joseph Parks
After an initial assessment, a state on-scene coordinator, Roarke Holzschuh said he believes there is no immediate threat and pointed out that there was plant growth within the barrels, which can indicate that there are no harmful chemicals present.
Officials said it’s possible the barrels were placed in the creek as part of erosion control after the land was purchased by the city in 1921 during the Parkway expansion.
Although these barrels ultimately may prove to be harmless, Atkins said this situation is a good reminder that if citizens see something that doesn’t look right they should report it.
“By all means, call us. We need to know about it and incidents like this, this was after some pretty good storms,” he said. “It exposed something that nobody knew was there, and we need to know if you see something — please just give us a call. You’re not being a burden to us, you’re helping us.”
There can be big impacts on the environment even if materials have been there for years.
“This creek here, like all the creeks here in town, it eventually ends up in a river. If there’s something in there that could be harmful to the water, we want to get it out of here, especially now since it’s exposed,” Atkins said.