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Milk Spill In Lake Yankton Six Years Ago

July 29, 2004, 9:45 PM by Amanda Spicer

It's been nearly 48 hours since 14 train cars derailed in Balaton, Minnesota. And there were two big scares. The first was making sure none of the fuel that leaked from the tanks ignited. The second was putting in dikes to keep the chemicals out of Lake Yankton. But the isn't the first time Lake Yankton has been under the spotlight for a spill.

Six years ago, Thursday, a Land O Lakes milk truck traveling to Sioux Falls rolled near Lake Yankton. The accident sent milk and diesel fuel into the water.

There's only one way Greg Erickson can describe what happened at the lake six years ago, it was a disaster. He says, "When we were paged out to that call, it was a call for a truck rollover. When we got to the scene it was much worse."

Erickson was the assistant fire chief at the time. He says, "The man driving the truck had fallen asleep and he went off the curve and basically tipped the truck on its side."

Today you can't tell anything happened. But if you were standing near the accident scene back in 1998, all you would see is a white liquid. Six thousand gallons of milk were on the truck that day. Erickson says, "When we got there it was already flowing into the lake. We had set up booms to try to stop it, but a lot of it had gotten into the lake."

The semi tipped over in the lake parking lot, but the milk made its way to the lake through a manhole. Erickson says, "Basically we had to make the lake, take the lake and put aerators in it from our local sportsmen's club to stir it up, make the milk dissipate throughout the lake."

The lake was basically shutdown for a year. Erickson says, "We closed it up throughout the year for what we could control. Obviously the people on the lake if they wanted to wouldn't be able to stop them, but the park was closed for the rest of the year."

Erickson says the spill couldn't have come at a worse time. "It was a disaster to the city park, you know because a lot of people come to our park every year."

Erickson says the accident was also a very sad situation because the 61-year-old semi driver from Pine Island, Minnesota died.  Lake Yankton is much better today. And none of the chemicals from Tuesday's derailment leaked into the water.

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