Significant Ethanol Spill Raises Alarms for Kankakee River Residents in Indiana and Illinois


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KANKAKEE, IL – A reported alarming ethanol spill from the South Bend Ethanol plant has triggered widespread concern among communities along the Kankakee River in Indiana and Illinois. The extent of the spill remains uncertain, intensifying worries about the potential environmental impact of this incident.

Confirming the gravity of the situation, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) has verified the occurrence of the spill and identified its source. The toxic release infiltrated nearby Dixon Ditch, posing a serious threat to the waterway’s delicate ecosystem. As Dixon Ditch merges into the Kankakee River, the contamination is believed to have already reached this vital lifeline for the region.

Residents first became aware of the crisis last week when they noticed troubling changes in the river’s appearance near the affected area. The water turned murky, devoid of any signs of life, and witnessed distressed plant life. The community promptly reported these alarming conditions to WSBT22, the local news outlet that initially broke the story.

Eyewitnesses at the scene were deeply troubled by the absence of wildlife, with long-time homeowners expressing their anguish over the dwindling fish population. Among them, a heartbroken resident described the scene of ducklings succumbing to the toxic effects of the spill.

The magnitude of the ethanol spill, originating from South Bend Ethanol, has resulted in the cloudiness and contamination of Dixon Ditch. This tributary runs parallel to the plant before converging into the Kankakee River, further exacerbating concerns about the widespread ecological damage caused by the spill.

While IDEM has taken swift action in responding to the crisis, the exact volume of ethanol that has infiltrated the waterway remains unknown. As a result, the full extent of the spill’s consequences cannot be determined at this time. IDEM is actively investigating the incident and overseeing the cleanup operations to mitigate further harm. However, the duration required to rectify the damages and restore the affected areas is undetermined.

The Kankakee River, spanning vast stretches of Indiana and Illinois, holds immense ecological significance. It serves as a lifeline for communities in the region and provides crucial habitats for numerous species. With its headwaters located southwest of downtown South Bend, Indiana, within the city limits, the river flows west into Illinois, joining forces with the Des Plaines River to form the mighty Illinois River.

Compounding the situation, the South Bend Ethanol plant underwent a recent change in ownership, with Verbio North America Holdings Corp. assuming control two months ago. While the financial details of the transaction remain undisclosed, Verbio’s plans to invest $230 million in the plant’s expansion and development into a modern refinery, encompassing renewable natural gas production, raise questions about the facility’s adherence to stringent safety protocols.

As investigations into this concerning incident continue and the affected communities grapple with the aftermath, residents of Indiana and Illinois stand united in their determination to protect the Kankakee River’s fragile ecosystem. The urgency lies not only in rectifying the immediate damages but also in ensuring that such spills are prevented in the future through rigorous safety measures and responsible handling of hazardous substances.


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