The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 16, 2010

Fifty Acre Way oil leak triggers emergency response

Workers from TMC Services Inc. of Bellingham work at the oil spill site on Fifty Acre Way. Absorbant pads soak up oil but not water. (Photo by Ellen Huber)

An Assurance Technology Corporation employee taking his regular noontime walk along Fifty Acre Way shortly after 1 p.m. last Monday smelled “a substance with a strong odor” and noticed the water in Spencer Brook was red. He thought this might be a case for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and he was right. He called Carlisle police and he was right again. What he had discovered was an oil leak from a single oil tank at 125 South Street that had drained into the brook and adjacent wetlands and but for his prompt alert might have continued to do so overnight.

Immediate response to alert

Response was swift and comprehensive. The communications dispatcher who got the call set in motion the sequence of response activities outlined in the Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP). The search for the source of the leak and evaluation of its extent and possible damage was quickly underway by a host of emergency responders.

Carlisle police were first at the scene and determined that home heating oil was leaking from a tank at 125 South Street. Fire Chief David Flannery found that the leak extended from South Street to Spencer Brook, but not all the way to the Benfield land.

Since the area affected includes rare species habitat, the Conservation Commission was also involved in the response effort. According to Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard, the state Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, which oversees the protected area, was notified. She reported that they reviewed the situation and felt that since oil flowed only into the outer part of the protected area, no wild life had been endangered.

The Board of Health was also involved in the response because of wells in the area. Board of Health Agent Linda Fantasia says it is known how far the oil has spread on the surface, because it can be seen and it has an odor. This is confirmed by Willard, who says she could smell oil on the white absorbant pads put down by the Fire Department. Willard said that ground water is high because of recent storms, and so most of the oil will probably stay above the water and be absorbed by the padding, which absorbs oil but not water.

Response orchestrated by LSP

The Massachusetts Contingency Plan sets up the procedure for responding to this kind of event. Residents George and Ilse Lohrer said they have selected Cosmo Gallinaro, a Licensed Site Professional (LSP) to handle the clean-up and coordinate subcontractors. The LSP will get the water flow chart for the area and determine which wells might be affected. It will then see that any wells which might possibly be contaminated are tested. Once the LSP is in place, local emergency personnel are phased out.

Resident copes with damage

The Lohrers said that they had no indication that anything was wrong. They smelled nothing and saw nothing, because the oil drainage on Fifty Acre Way was not in their line of vision. Lohrer said his oil system has “worked without fault for 25 years.” He has done all of his yard work until recently, when he hired a handyman to do some outdoor work that resulted in the oil line leak. He estimated that between 100 and 200 gallons were released before the oil was shut off. (see below.) ∆

(Ed note: article published 4/15 updated 4/16)



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