Investigators Search for Source of Mysterious Oil Spill in Chicago River

The mystery behind the oil that appeared in the Chicago River continued Friday as crews worked to find the source of the leak and determine how much oil has spilled into the river. 

Part of the south branch of the river, where it meets a southern fork known as Bubbly Creek, has been shut down by the Coast Guard Thursday due to a “reported oil discharge,” officials said.

Representatives from the Coast Guards’ Marine Safety Unit Chicago and the Environmental Protection Agency met near the stretch of river after being notified of the oil, which came from an unknown source, officials said. Bubbly Creek runs south from the south branch of the river to Pershing Road, east of Ashland Avenue.

“A concentration of oil has also been identified on the south branch of the Chicago River between Ashland Avenue and Pulaski Road,” the Coast Guard said in a statement. “The Coast Guard has established a safety zone, closing this section of the waterway to all people and vessels.”

The area holds a popular boatyard for rowers, who say they've noticed a "grease" in the water for days. 

Len Richard, the rowing coach for St. Ignatius Chicago Rowing, said his team launches from the area on Eleanor Street frequently and began noticing the oily substance Monday and Tuesday. By Wednesday, he said, they had to hose down and brush their boats.

It wasn't until Thursday he learned about the spill.

"We've been rowing in it for four days now," he said. 

Anyone observing additional oil should contact the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.

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