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Lake Michigan

Mystery silver substance 'tri-calcium orthophosphate' found in Lake Michigan, prompts beach closure

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: Lake Michigan, beach closure, mysterious pollution

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(NaturalNews) A glittery substance eventually identified as the compound tri-calcium orthophosphate was discovered in Lake Michigan, prompting health officials to close some beaches.

According to CBSChicago, swimmers were ordered out of Porter Beach June 17 because of a "substance" discovered in the water. According to the report:

It was originally thought to be an oil slick that prompted the closure of Porter Beach and the Indiana Dunes State Park Beach right next door, but Park Ranger Bruce Rowe said samples taken of the quarter-mile long slick show it is not.

Shortly after the discovery, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management ID'ed the substance as tri-calcium orthophosphate. Around noon June 17, Rowe said visitors to the beach noticed that their kids were coming out of the lake coated in a silvery, almost metallic-like material clinging to them, leading officials to close the beach.

'Everybody had to evacuate'

Jason Pavela, a beachgoer who was there that day, said lifeguards walked the length of the beach informing swimmers to get out of the water.

"They said it with urgency. They told everybody to evacuate the water immediately," he told the CBS affiliate WBBM.

Following the discovery, a number of state and federal agencies began investigating where the compound was coming from. Included in that group were officials from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Beachgoers were banned from the water until officials discovered the origin of the tri-calcium orthophosphate, which is used in powered spices as an anti-caking agent, as well as a raw material in the manufacture of phosphoric acid and fertilizers. It can also be used as a nutritional supplement, for the repair of bones.

Unsure where the slick originated from

Indiana and federal officials positively identified the tri-calcium orthophosphate the following day.

"The material that was found in Lake Michigan yesterday, we do know that it's tri-calcium orthophosphate," Dan Goldblatt, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, told WBBM. He added the test results are preliminary.

The station later reported that the substance did not appear to be harmful.

"That's produced for a lot of things," Goldblatt said. "One thing that it's used for is actually a food additive, and there is a plant nearby in Porter County that produces the stuff and ships it in large quantities in barges across the lake."

He went onto say that the slick spotted in Lake Michigan has not been linked to the company, which he did not identify.

"We don't have confirmation that's where it came from. They do make the material, and we do know that that is what was found in the lake," he said.

Officials said they weren't clear how the compound was spilled into the lake. It could have leaked from a barge or might have been carried through the air. A swim advisory remained in effect days after the discovery.

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