Mt. Vernon, Mo. residents find diesel fuel in natural waterways near their homes

Published: May. 30, 2021 at 10:02 PM CDT|Updated: May. 30, 2021 at 10:10 PM CDT
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MT. VERNON, Mo. (KY3) - Mt. Vernon residents are concerned for their health and safety after diesel fuel polluted the water in their neighborhood.

When you step outside of your car on Patton Street in Mt.Vernon, the smell is overwhelming. The street and waterway are lined with diesel fuel.

“It’s a horrible smell. I mean it’s just diesel everywhere. Remember when it would rain and you would love the smell of rain? Now you just want to close the windows and go inside,” said resident Michele Perriman.

“It was so putrid it just made you gag. You could even smell it in your house with the windows and doors shut. It was just oozing in,” said resident Donna Pritchard.

“As a kid, we couldn’t come outside. Obviously, right now, I can’t play catch with my kids. You can smell the diesel smell,” said resident Patrick McCan.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources cleaned up some of the fuel, but there is still a lot of oil present.

Pritchard showed KY3 a jar with diesel and water mixed in her neighborhood.

“This jar has in it a small token of the water that was sitting at the south corner of my house,” said Pritchard.

Caral Harris with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, says that absorbent booms were placed along the waterway to clean up the petroleum. The source of the leak is still being investigated. DNR is working with the Lawrence County Emergency Management Office, but the effects of this spill are lasting.

“I mean, my yard is a mess. I’ve got bushes back there that I’m not sure they’re are going to make it now because of the diesel fuel,” said Perriman.

“The front of our yard used to come all the way out to the street, but with all the storm runoff over the last 20 years, it’s eroded back to the mailbox,” said Pritchard.

As you walk along the waterway you can see that the fuel has killed everything in its path, including grass and trees, even clusters of earthworms can be seen in the water.

“The erosion is astronomical, not only back here, but in the back yard, my trees, my neighbor’s trees. If you look, the leaves are almost black on them,” said McCan.

Residents say this problem with diesel and erosion has been going on for years. We reached out to the City of Mt. Vernon to see how they plan to resolve this issue, but have not heard back yet.

Officials from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources say clean-up efforts will resume this next week.

Carl Harris from the Department of Natural Resources released this statement to KY3:

“The Department of Natural Resources responded Saturday and provided oversight for a cleanup contractor to begin the remediation process on the impacted private properties.  The material does appear to be diesel/fuel oil.  The impacted soils were removed and absorbents placed in case of further runoff until cleanup is completed this week.

The exact cause of the release is currently under investigation.”

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