Batavia residents warned to stay away from Mahoney Creek after foam spill

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 to the surrounding soil and wildlife is currently unknown, Batavia officials said on the city’s website. Foam has been spotted in the creek as recently as Thursday, according to an update on the website.

The spill is not anticipated to impact the city’s water supply because it does not use water from the creek or from the Fox River, where the creek connects, for its drinking water, according to officials.

Batavia City Administrator Laura Newman said both the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the city, through a third party consultant, are doing their own testing on the creek’s water to determine the impact of the spill.

“As the city, we’re going to stay on top of that and make sure that the parties who are responsible for this contamination do everything that they can to restore the area,” Newman said.

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

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 print and packaging materials.

A statement from Flint Group said that, last Friday evening, the building’s fire suppression system activated, potentially because of an electrical malfunction in the system, which sprayed fire suppression foam outside the building.

The foam then flowed into an on-site containment basin designed to capture stormwater runoff, according to the statement.

While the fire suppression system was turned off as soon as the runoff was discovered, a separate malfunction caused a valve in the containment basin to open, leaking the foam into the storm sewer, the statement said. This leak was not discovered until Sunday.

“Flint Group remains steadfast in our commitment to addressing this incident responsibly and implementing necessary measures to mitigate any environmental effects, and to continue as a respected employer in Batavia,” the statement said.

A Flint Group spokesperson was contacted on Thursday, but they declined to comment beyond what was provided 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 the sightings to the incident at the Flint Group building until the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency contacted the city on Monday morning to ask for information about the spill, according to Newman.

She said that once city officials realized the possible connection, they hired its environmental consulting firm, GZA GeoEnvironmental, to advocate for the city and its people, do its own testing and oversee responsible parties during cleanup efforts.

Tests to determine the impact of the foam spill will likely take several weeks to complete, Batavia officials said 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 consultant to develop a remediation plan to be completed by those responsible, according to Newman.

Officials are encouraging Batavia residents to report sightings of foam in the creek by calling 630-454-2002 and leaving a voice mail with the time and the address of the sighting.