Multiple agencies assist with Camden oil spill

By Jenna Lookner | Jan 25, 2013
Photo by: Jenna Lookner Water from the area of the spill flows into Camden Harbor.

Camden — Camden Fire and Police departments were aided by outside agencies including the Department of Environmental Protection and Maine Marine Patrol in the assessment and cleanup of a minor oil spill Jan. 24. The spill was attributed to an overflowing fuel tank outside Inn at Camden Place, said Camden firefighter Cheyne Hansen.

Hansen said Camden Police Detective Curt Andrick was alerted to the spill Thursday morning; Andrick called Hansen for assistance around 7:30 a.m. Hansen said the overflow likely happened during the frigid overnight hours when temperatures dipped well below zero.

Approximately 20 gallons of No. 2 heating oil were released from the fuel tank, Hansen sais. He said the fuel spilled on the pavement and into nearby Megunticook River, which is an almost-immediate tributary to Camden Harbor. After spreading Speedy Dry — which Hansen likened to cat litter — and placing absorbent pads at the site of the spill, Hansen called Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Jaret and Cohn Property Services company that maintains Inn at Camden Place.

Hansen said Zach Cohn of Jaret and Cohn Property Services called Maritime Energy and the company immediately dispatched personnel to troubleshoot the faulty fuel tank. Hansen said Inn at Camden Place has a trio of fuel tanks and unused fuel is pumped back into one of the tanks. He said because of abnormally cold weather the boiler was running almost constantly and the rapid backflow of oil likely overwhelmed the allotted collection tank resulting in the spill because the tank did not have time to "level itself out" as designed.

Dan Davis, an oil and hazardous materials specialist with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection stayed on the scene until early afternoon; and Hansen said Davis consulted with a biologist about the welfare of the wildlife that inhabits the river, namely ducks, said Hansen.

Hansen said contact with any petroleum product can be harmful to ducks because those products interfere with the natural protective oils in a waterbird's feathers allowing opportunity for the resulting threat of hypothermia.

Because of the flow of the river it was determined the Jan. 24 spill posed little or no risk to the duck population, Hansen said.

A member of Maine Marine Patrol checked harbor, said Hansen, and on Davis's recommendation Superintendent Ross Parker of Camden Wastewater Department was called to lower the water level in the Megunticook River around 12:30 p.m.

Parker said he and other personnel from the Camden Wastewater Department lowered the water level near Montgomery Dam. He said the practice of lowering the water level is usually implemented during "bad storm events" to spare buildings that could flood.

The process involves turning off the turbine at the upstream Seabright Dam first, said Parker. He said it took about 20 minutes to lower the water level and Davis gave the go-ahead to restore normal water levels within about two hours.

"We dropped the water by about four to six inches to accomplish what [Davis] wanted to do," Parker said.

He said he believed Davis was looking for residual oil, which would be easier to capture if the water was not flowing over Montgomery Dam, but was unsure whether lowering the water level aided Davis's efforts.

"I think [the situation] has pretty much been mitigated," Hansen about 36 hours after the spill was reported.

He said the partnership between agencies expedited the process of rectifying the spill.

"It was good that we had multi-agency cooperation, thanks to all the other agencies that helped," he said.

Courier Publications reporter Jenna Lookner can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at jlookner@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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