Thursday, May 09, 2002

From The Daily Southdown...

Strange cargo found in forest

Stumped officials try to find out who dropped off 55 gallons of goat semen in Cook County preserve

Wednesday, May 1, 2002

By Jennifer Martikean
Staff writer

It wasn't nearly as much fun as a barrel full of monkeys, but the barrel firefighters found was just as weird.
It was full of goat semen.

Or maybe it was pig semen.

"We're still in disbelief," said a firefighter who did not want to be identified. "I have never heard of anything like this ever happening. We have no idea who did this."

The mysterious barrel was discovered Monday night by a passerby at the Arie Crown Woods near Countryside, Cook County Forest Preserve Lt. Michael Albrecht said.

When the police came out to take a look, they found a white, 55-gallon container with a black plug on top and hazardous materials markings on the outside.

They called in the hazardous materials team from Pleasantview Fire Protection District.

"The firefighters came, they saw the barrel, and the cleared out the area," Albrecht said.

Firefighters spent some time trying to figure out what kind of substance they were dealing with. All they knew was the barrel had some liquid in it.

After a careful inspection, firefighters found a phone number on one of the stickers. They radioed the number to dispatchers, who traced it to an Iowa company called Swine Genetics.

The company ships pig and boar semen in canisters, which in turn are placed in large drums filled with liquid nitrogen. The liquid nitrogen keeps the semen at the optimal temperature so it can be shipped long distances and used for artificial insemination.

No one has any idea how the semen ended up at the forest preserve.

"We get calls about illegal dumping all the time, but never anything like this," Albrecht said.

The police department "properly disposed" of the semen, but declined to say how.

There was some conflicting information about what kind of semen was in the canister. Albrecht said police believe it was goat semen, but Swine Genetics only deals in pig semen. A worker at the company said the barrels are expensive, costing as much as $1,100, and they are often reused by farmers to ship other types of semen.

Pleasantview firefighters were a little embarrassed about the big fuss. They were still laughing about it Tuesday and could hardly comment.

"It is just so bizarre that that would be out there," a firefighter said. "We've had all kinds of guesses at the station all day. But I'm not going to tell you what they were."

A worker at Swine Genetics said the company hasn't had any reports of missing semen, and police said no one has reported anything like it missing.

The company ships internationally out of O'Hare International Airport, so it is possible one of the barrels could have come from the airport, he said.

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