Diesel fuel spill in Damariscotta River
SOUTH BRISTOL (WGME) -- Hazmat crews and the Coast Guard are on the scene of a diesel fuel spill from a barge on the Damariscotta River. The spill started Friday morning in the village of Walpole, which is part of South Bristol.
Workers on the barge had been shoring up a dock belonging to Mook Sea Farm, an oyster farm on the river. The barge had been going up and down just fine with the tides. But the last time the tide went out, ice damaged the barge.
The barge started to take on water. As it did, 100 gallons of diesel fuel spilled into the river. Bristol Fire Chief Paul Leeman, also a member of the county Hazmat team, says the barge "was completely underwater, causing the diesel fuel to float out."
The Hazmat team put first booms in the water to contain the fuel and keep it from reaching any oysters. Bill Mook, owner of Mook Sea Farm, told us "Right now we probably have over 30 million oysters, little baby oysters, in there."
Mook says his hatchery pumps in water from the river and that any diesel fuel in the hatchery would be a disaster. He says "My business absolutely depends on clean water." Fortunately, their pump is 100 yards off shore, away from the spill.
Mook says "That's good news, because that's where we pump our water from and the oil is away from there." Mook also told us all of his oyster beds in the river are at a safe distance from the spill, so those oysters should be fine.
Much of the diesel fuel has already evaporated. But heavy engine oil from the barge also spilled into the river and onto an ice bed; oil that, if not soaked up by these pads, would sink straight to the bottom causing an environmental hazard.
Chief Leeman says "When the tide comes it, it will raise the oil off the flats and the ice, and we'll be able to continue mopping that up." At this point, the Coast Guard has taken over command of this cleanup effort.
The Coast Guard has called in Clean Harbors, a company which specializes in this type of cleanup, which is sending a ship to pump out the remaining diesel fuel and oil from this barge on Saturday morning.