The Kubota excavator sitting several feet deep in Prior Lake appears to be leaking oil or other fluids into the water, though information on how big or small the problem is was hard to come by this week.

County and city authorities received word the equipment had fallen through the lake’s ice near its north shore March 20. State law generally gives owners of submerged vehicles 30 days to remove them, but Prior Lake City Manager Michael Plante said it could come out sooner.

Plante said the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Department of Natural Resources are coordinating the excavator’s removal with its owner, who has retained the St. Paul-based environmental cleanup company Bay West to help.

“The city certainly wants to see that excavator out of there as soon as possible, but at this point a lot of it is in the hands of these state agencies,” Plante said. He added the city is looking into who to hire to get it out if the 30-day deadline passes.

Spokesmen for the state agencies didn’t return requests for comment as of press time Thursday evening. A Bay West employee referred questions to the excavator owner, whom the Scott County Sheriff’s Office previously declined to identify.

Floating barriers have been placed around the machine, but a swirling, iridescent sheen was visible on much of the surrounding water this week. Plante said he’d been told the amount of fluid is small, maybe too small to soak up with absorbent padding.

The excavator’s location makes removal a challenge, Plante said. The shoreline immediately slopes steeply upward and is crowded with private property that could be damaged by any large machines, for example. He said a boat might be able to tug it to a depth deep enough for a barge to grab it.

Dianne Lynch, administrator of the Prior Lake Spring Lake Watershed District, said she didn’t have the expertise to comment on the fluids’ impact on the lake. The Pollution Control Agency’s website says an oily sheen can evaporate or be broken down by microbes.

Community editor

Dan Holtmeyer is the community editor for the Prior Lake and Savage papers. He grew up in Nebraska and worked as a journalist in Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas before coming to Minnesota in 2018.

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