Bizarre chicken byproduct spill creates cleanup challenges for city crews, MnDOT

PAM BLUHM/CHATFIELD NEWS Members of the Chatfield maintenance department attempt to scoop up chicken feathers and other byproduct that spilled on Highway 52 on March 14

PAM BLUHM/CHATFIELD NEWS The slimy pink goop was a challenge to clean up as the city crew brought out its Toolcat sweeper to get everything into a pile before crews loaded it into the skidloader bucket to transfer it back into the tank from which it originally came.
By : 
Chatfield News
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Why did Brian cross the road?

To get to the other slime!

“I was home taking care of our basement, as we had water the night before. Ryan (Priebe) received a call from city hall, and then he called me. I then went there and called MnDOT, as they were there and had just been driving through. During those few minutes, people drove through for some reason – they probably wish they didn’t, as their cars smell now – until Chatfield Police arrived, and they closed off Highway 52 and MnDOT and the city crew blocked off Highway 30/74,” recounted Brian Burkholder, Chatfield city maintenance supervisor.

Burkholder shared the tale of a rather gruesome drive-by chickening that happened on the corner of Main Street, or Highway 52, and Highway 30/74 in downtown Chatfield on Wednesday, March 13. A truck carrying pureed chicken – with feathers and other byproducts mixed in for animal feed consumption – lost its load while passing through the intersection.

There was pink slime everywhere.

Burkholder listed the efforts to contain the giant gloppy disaster, from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) attempting to snowplow it into shape to the city breaking out some of its better equipment to spoon the stinky salad back into the truck marked with the sign “Not for Human Food.”

“MnDOT had an idea of using their plow to scrape it off to the side, but that did not work. We ended up shoveling and sweeping off the boulevards and then using our Toolcat sweeper to sweep everything into a pile, then sweeping into our loader bucket, and then dumping it back into the trailer where it came from. After it was cleaned up, we used our street flusher to wash the rest off,” Burkholder said.

Local and state authorities had the privilege of responding to the spill. “The duty officer was called because it was a hazardous spill and being close to our catch basins with liquids running into them,” Burkholder added. “The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) was also involved, being near our sewer manholes. We needed to take pictures and send them to the MPCA, as they couldn’t get down here. The Minnesota Department of Health also happened to drive through at the time and got involved as well.”

Burkholder’s crew put in some extra hours remedying the situation as he recalled, “It took roughly an hour for our public works crew, along with a couple MnDOT workers, to get it all cleaned up and roads opened again. It took another hour to wash down our equipment and get it scrubbed with bleach to get the smell off. We’re working with the chicken trucking company’s insurance on cleanup expenses.”

The supervisor, still recovering from the bizarre addition to his and his crew’s daily duties, stated that the strange stew, with its rank runniness and stench, wasn’t the first drive-by chickening that has hit Main Street Chatfield. He recalled, years before, there had been another truck spewing chicken…the only difference was that truck had half and quarter chickens airborne and splayed from the stoplight to the middle of the downtown business sector. Some business owners and customers reported seeing the airborne chickens going for their last flight and the truck being long gone.

“We have had multiple spills in the past, but this seemed to be the largest that I have been a part of,” Burkholder said. “The only good thing about this spill is that it wasn’t pig or cow material, as that is very slippery…and we would’ve needed to sand the roads after, like we have had to do in the past.”

This past winter has been hard on Burkholder and his crew – the snow, the ice, the blizzards, more snow and then flooding. They’ve enjoyed some pretty nice noshing, courtesy of generous residents who have rewarded them with sweets and the occasional lunch. For that, they’re extremely grateful.

So, does that mean, if someone offers, they’ll declare themselves the “winner, winner” of a chicken dinner?

Burkholder, while certainly expressing his appreciation for the thought, said, not. “No chicken for a while!”