Quest to contain
LAKE PLACID – The state Department of Conservation is continuing to investigate an oil spill, which occurred Tuesday on the property of a local fuel supplying company, and resulted in oil leaking into Mill Pond.
The spill was caused by an oil truck that had a mechanical failure, Hurley Brothers owner Bill Hurley said. It began leaking gallons of oil at the back of the premises located at Station Street, across the road from Mill Pond.
“An undetermined amount of fuel oil entered the Mill Pond and Chubb River,” DEC spokesperson Emily Kilburn wrote in an email.
The DEC’s “preliminary estimate” places the release of oil from the truck in excess of 20 gallons, Kilburn wrote. Hurley said the amount of oil that leaked from the truck is under 50 gallons, but he said the exact quantity is unknown.
Hurley said his employees attempted on Tuesday to lessen the fuel leak’s impact on the environment and thought they had it contained.
“The operator of the truck onsite immediately shut down valves on the truck and proceeded to mitigate the spill, including blocking the storm drains,” Hurley said.
The workers bailed oil out of the storm drains with buckets and also removed contaminated soil, he said.
“We did not observe any in the village system,” Hurley said.
However, that changed after a rainstorm on Wednesday night, Hurley said. By Thursday morning, an unknown amount of oil made its way through three storm drains on Hurley Brothers property and traveled through several other village storm drains under the street, and finally entered Mill Pond, according to Hurley.
A DEC oil response member at the scene also confirmed that this was the cause of the oil entering Mill Pond. He would not comment on the record. Kilburn said the cause of the leak was “still under investigation” Friday afternoon.
On Thursday morning, people began to witness and smell oil at Mill Pond and others saw oil further downstream. A local man, Larry Masters, said he contacted the DEC’s spill response team Thursday at around 9 a.m.
“From that point, Hurley Brothers were coordinating with DEC and the village of Lake Placid to mitigate any further discharge,” Hurley said.
The Chubb River empties into the West Branch of the AuSable River and eventually the AuSable River. The DEC plans to continue to investigate the incident and potential impacts to the river.
“A field inspection by DEC technical staff this morning revealed that conditions in the Mill Pond and Chubb River are continuing to improve,” Kilburn wrote by email.
On Friday, Hurley Brothers and the DEC’s spill response team attempted to contain oil leakage on Mill Pond. A thin coat of oil was still visible inside the village drains on Station Street and oil was also on the surface of Mill Pond near a runoff pipe by the pond’s bank.
Hurley and a spill response team member attached 70 feet worth of oil-absorbent boom together around 11:30 a.m. Friday, to serve as a containment line. Hurley entered the pond, dragged the boom into the water and then used a hammer and stake to set it in place. The oil absorbent boom should soak the oil up and act as a barrier to stop the oil from spreading downstream.
Hurley said he cares about the environment and spilling oil is not in his company’s best interest. Hurley Brothers was established in 1909 and is one of the oldest businesses in Lake Placid.
“This is the largest event that’s occurred on Hurley Brothers’ property, to my knowledge,” Hurley said.
Madeleine Killeen, president of the Mill Pond Neighborhood Association, was one of the first people to witness the oil in Mill Pond and was back at the pond Friday to observe the remediation efforts. She said Hurley Brothers and DEC appear to be working together to clean the spill.
“This was an accident,” Killeen said. “It is obviously not intentional and all parties are working to a good end to this.”
Killeen said Hurley Brothers should review their response to oil spills and make it public what safety measures they intend to put in place to prevent spills from occurring in the future.
The DEC requires all petroleum spills over 5 gallons to be reported to the DEC Spill Hotline within two hours of a spill. Cleaning the oil is the responsibility of the spiller. “Continued cleanup may include determining the extent of contamination, selecting a cleanup technology and completing corrective actions,” according to the DEC website.
In New York, there are an estimated 16,000 dangerous releases into the environment a year. Most of those, 90 percent, are petroleum-based products, according to the DEC.