PORTAGE, Wis. — As flames emerged from a dairy storage room at the Associated Milk Producers Inc. (AMPI) plant in Columbia County, approx. 20 gallons of melted butter seeped into the sewer system and threatened a wastewater treatment plant, according to the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR).
Portage Fire Department crews rushed to the 300-block of Brooks St at 9:15 p.m. on Jan. 2 after a fire alarm sounded at the AMPI plant. Authorities arrived to find heavy smoke and flames stemming from the roof of the building. When they attempted to breach the front of the plant, it was clear that extreme heat and smoke would prevent them from making a swift entrance.
It also became apparent that the source of the fire was a room where a significant amount of butter was stored, creating excessive smoke and harsh conditions that prevented firefighters from attacking the flames. Meanwhile, melted butter began to seep throughout the facility and eventually, into a nearby canal through a storm sewer.
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According to the DNR, most of that butter ended up at a wastewater treatment plant. However, much of the butter was diluted by water and firefighting material, helping to minimize environmental impact. DNR officials are still investigating the potential impacts of this incident.
Absorbent booms, which are generally used to clean up oil or water spills, were deployed by DNR officials and the Portage Hazmat Team to help clean up.
All the while, firefighters spent hours limiting the blaze to a confined area of the facility. No one was injured and the cause of the blaze hasn’t been released to the public at this stage of the investigation.
“Wastewater plant personnel have been clearing butter out of the plant since the incident,” Wisconsin DNR officials shared. “The treatment plant has operated effectively without disruption, though some temporary exceedances are anticipated.”
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