Second Time for Crash into Kalkaska’s Crawford Lake

Neighbors say it's been ten years since a similar crash, now it's happened twice in one week

For the second time in a week, a driver ended up in a Kalkaska County lake.

This time, it happened after a police chase, and now the boat launch access site is closed for another environmental cleanup.

“Well its Tuesday morning at Crawford Lake, and we recently had another car pulled out last night.” That’s the narration from resident Jon Grote on the home video he took at the lake access site. He jokes, “Lake Street. Crawford Lake. We’re going to start calling it Carford Lake.”

The boat access in Kalkaska County is closed again, this time because of what happened Monday night. The sheriff’s office and state troopers were trying to track down a stolen pickup truck.

Grote says the normally clean lake is a little less clean now – with fuel, motor oil, anti-freeze –whatever may have leaked out as the driver crashed into the lake. “You can see a film… a gas an oil smell. Pretty strong down here right now.”

With the second incident in a week, neighbors are concerned. Last week Monday night or early Tuesday, a car went into the lake in the same spot. The driver didn’t report it. Instead it was his insurance company who finally called police on Wednesday. That’s when the first clean-up started. Neighbors are frustrated that it’s happened again, and troubled about the potential environmental impact.

Margaret Weeber says, “As soon as I pulled up here now, how many hours later, you can still smell it. I was angry. It’s like, come on this is a lake. Let’s take care of it and keep it clean.”  Grote adds, “The neighborhood kind of came together and kind of called the DEQ, calling the sheriff’s office, the DNR, everybody we could think of to get some stuff rolling. And I guess that worked.”

Jake Riley is an Environmental Quality Analyst with EGLE (formerly the Michigan DEQ). He says they received several calls to the Pollution Complaint Line, but that was the first they’d heard of the incident. “We got some complaints about oil and gas being in the lake so we decided to come out. There’s a little difference where last week it was a lot more oil in the water. With this incident it seems to be more gasoline.”

Again this week, the access road is barricaded, and a cleanup is underway for the motor oil and fuel left by the car. A crew is using oil booms to soak up the petroleum, and is digging up the sand to get the fuel out of the area. Riley says, “I wouldn’t say there’s a significant long term threat at all. We’re a little concerned with the fact that this is the second one to happen in less than a week. There’s a little more concern about what might be on the beach.”

Robert Scott is in charge of the crew from A-1 Northern Environmental Services. “We’re going to do some sampling, bore sampling to see if the gasoline has run down into the soil. We boomed off the area to catch anything that may leech out into the water.” He adds, “I don’t believe there’s a lot left but you can smell it in the area, so until we probing around and doing some boring then, we have a special meter to test for that and tell us where it’s at.”

Asked about the environment effects, Riley says, “There’s not going to be a ton that we can capture. And actually a lot is going to be dissipated through evaporation with the sun. Sunshine like this a lot evaporates off the water.” Scott says it could take a few days or up to a week to determine if there’s fuel still soaking into the sand.

Neighbors are frustrated that environmental efforts didn’t begin immediately, and that they’re the ones who had to report concerns to EGLE. They say with it being a stolen truck, it could have been several days before the insurance company got around to reporting it this time.

The driver could be on the hook for the cost of the clean-up, but after the accident Monday night he swam to shore was taken to the hospital. There’s no word yet on a pending arrest – or possible charges.