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Oil cleanup continues at forest preserve

A Hermit Thrush is covered in oil.
A Hermit Thrush is covered in oil.

DeKALB – DeKalb Fire Chief Eric Hicks said it will be a few days before an oil spill in a forest preserve pond can be completely filtered out.

"We're going to monitor it this week and keep an eye on it," he said.

DeKalb Assistant Fire Chief Jeff McMasters said the department is working with the city's public works department and the DeKalb Forest Preserve on a cleanup plan for the pond, which is located in the County Farm Woods, behind the Michael's and Target stores in DeKalb.

Hicks described the situation as being in the hands of the forest preserve, who did not return calls Monday. DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott said he was aware of the spill, but said his office had not been asked to investigate.

McMasters said firefighters left oil absorbant booms in the pond to filter the oil out of the water. A light sheen of oil was visible on one of the pond's shores, he said..

McMasters and Hicks said there was no sign of an active oil leak or any obvious clues as to how the oil got to the pond.

McMasters said that apart from an oil-covered bird found and rescued by a DeKalb woman, the department found no other animals that were affected by the oil spill. Christy Gerbitz, the director of operations at Oaken Acres Wildlife Center in Sycamore, said they had not received any animals covered in oil.

Pattie Nyquist, of DeKalb, found a bird drenched in oil and informed authorities Friday. Nyquist took the bird to Fox Valley Wildlife Center in Elburn because it was covered in oil and could not fly.

"I recognized its head," she said. "But the rest of its body ... was black and it was dragging its wings."

Ashley Flint, director of the wildlife center, said the bird quickly recovered from the oil spill and was released Sunday.

"This one we have marked as 'mil' meaning it only had some tar on its feathers," Flint said. "We gave it a couple of [dish detergent] baths, it was doing great, flew well, so it was released [Sunday]."

Oil can have an adverse effect on birds, Flint said. It can harden feathers, prevent birds from cleaning themselves, affect the bird's body temperature, and sometimes prevent them from flying.

"If caught early, it is very treatable with Dawn soap baths, but if caught too late, the bird may develop secondary conditions that cause risk for death, like pneumonia," Flint said.

Flint advised people who find birds covered in foreign substances to put the animal in an enclosed container, and bring them to a wildlife center.

Nyquist said she already could see a difference in the cleanup work the fire department has done at the pond. The oil is not as thick and now has a brownish tint to it, she said. She commended the fire department for responding to the situation so soon.

"I think that acting quickly really did save a number of birds," she said.

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