Who You Gonna Call?

The Fox River does not have a voice and relies on people and organizations, its watershed community of caretakers, to advocate on its behalf. 

This was posted on the Batavia Citizen’s site on March 10, 2024
about a stream near South Raddant Rd.

A foamy situation

On March 8, 2024 an electrical malfunction in the fire suppression system at Flint Group in Batavia, IL caused firefighting foam to be discharged outside the building. The foam flowed into an outdoor containment basin, but a separate malfunction caused a valve to open and the foam to flow into the stormwater system.  The foam traveled through the stormwater system and was eventually deposited into Mahoney Creek, a tributary of the Fox River. 

Map from City of Batavia website showing Mahoney Creek watershed,
site of foam release, where foam entered
Mahoney Creek,  and direction of water flow. 

Like a good neighbor

Nearby residents were the first to report sightings of foam in Mahoney Creek and to express concern, some reaching out via social media to find the appropriate entity to notify. The foam disappeared and reappeared over the course of the next few days. The City of Batavia worked with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to locate the source of the foam, which was eventually identified as the Flint Group, and the firefighting foam was identified as an aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) called  Ansulite Low Viscosity 3×3 AR-AFF Foam Concentrate. Firefighting foams often contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) which are commonly known as “forever chemicals” because they degrade slowly and can persist in the environment, as well as human and animal tissues, indefinitely.   

Cleanup, decontamination, and testing of water and soil  were initiated soon after, and the Illinois Department of Public Health recently released their review of testing results. The PFAS known as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) were detected above screening levels. Samples were retained for further testing, and IDPH concluded that “Dermal exposure and accidental ingestion of soil and water during recreational activities does not pose a short-term or long-term health risk.” The full letter can be found here

A watershed community of caretakers

This incident exemplifies why having a vigilant community is imperative to the health of the Fox River and everything that relies upon it. This includes the surrounding communities that use it for drinking water and recreation and enjoy its beauty, and the myriad of wildlife that it sustains. 

Thankfully the days of blatant disregard for our river are in the past, but threats still exist whether accidental discharges, excess nutrients from lawn and agricultural fertilizers, or salts and other pollutants that runoff impervious surfaces. 

Friends of the Fox River works to educate and empower our watershed communities to ensure the Fox River is always in good hands. Being familiar with your places, your river, your tributary and knowing when conditions deviate from what is normal is a critical skill. Foam, unusual oily sheens, discoloration, excess sediment, and fish kills are among the things that warrant reporting. If possible, take a photo of the conditions and note the date, time, and location. Just as important as identifying an issue, though, is knowing who to contact if a situation arises. 

You can call the  IL Environmental Protection Agency:1-800-782-7860, or fill out Citizen Complain Report: https://epa.illinois.gov/pollution-complaint.html

If wildlife are affected, such as a fish kill, make an additional call to the IL Department of Natural Resources Office of Law Enforcement: 1-877-2DNRLAW (1-877-236-7529). 

Your local municipality may also be notified, and if it is an emergency or has the potential to directly impact human health, do not hesitate to call 9-1-1.