“It appears right now that what we’re dealing with is used cooking oil,” said Kevin Chambers, a spokesman for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. The substance is not considered hazardous, and Chambers said officials with U.S. Biofuels have already started to make arrangements to hire a contractor to take care of the cleanup.
“We’re still trying to define the extent of the spill,” Chambers said. “We know it affects at least one mile of Ward Creek.”
Mike Hackett, assistant director of the Rome Water and Sewer Division, said a landowner contacted his office late Monday evening about a possible sewer leak in a creek off Ga. 53. Hackett said a black substance was discovered in the waters of Ward Creek.
“Our sewer crew went out, walked from manhole to manhole, and could not find a problem,” said Leigh Ross, Rome’s water and sewer director. They followed the spill back to the area near the U.S. Biofuels plant, 555 W. Hermitage Road.
Calls by the Rome News-Tribune to U.S. Biofuels were not returned Tuesday.
An EPD emergency response team member arrived at the scene Tuesday afternoon to begin the investigation.
Ben Winkleman, an environmental compliance officer with the city of Rome, said it appears as if there had been some sort of discharge from the plant and suggested that it may have been going on for a day or two prior to the discovery of the fluids in the water.
Winkleman and Chambers both indicated there was no early evidence of a fish kill.
Greg Hopkins, CEO of U.S. Biofuels, is a member of the National Biofuels Board of Directors. The Rome plant has been producing biofuels using animal fats for many years.