Source of spill still unknown
By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
TRENTON – Hydraulic oil made up most of the oily sheen discovered Jan. 4 in the Frank and Poet Drain, Fire Chief Dean Creech said Jan. 20. The source of the spill still is unknown.
Creech said the lab test results also indicated smaller components of motor oil, and of fats, oil and grease, which was likely introduced to the stream through the improper dumping of fryer grease.
Creech said the primary pollutant, the hydraulic oil, could have been introduced to the stream any number of ways. He said that while the investigation is still active, it is difficult to track down any one source of the pollutant.
At the Jan. 13 City Council meeting, Creech and Public Safety Director Steven Voss updated council members on the cleanup efforts.
Creech said the Fire Department traced the source of the sheen to a storm drain west of the stream near King Road.
“Downriver Hazmat was activated, and we procured a couple of their booms, which were deployed,” Creech said. “The EPA, Wayne County drain commission and EGLE, which was formerly DEQ, were advised and brought into the loop, and Trenton Fire, Trenton DPS and Riverview Fire and DPW all responded.”
EGLE is the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Great Lakes and Energy, formerly known as the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
Creech said the storm drain, which was the source of the contaminant, runs west of the Frank and Poet Drain, then north into Riverview, near the Riverview landfill.
Creech said from Jan. 4 to 9 both Trenton and Riverview departments of public service and fire departments coordinated several flushes and vacuuming of the sheen, which he said resulted in a visible improvement in the water.
He said on Jan. 10, Trenton DPS and Fire Department conducted extensive flush and vac operations to remediate the sheen prior to the forecasted weekend rainstorms.
“In total, an estimated 40,000 gallons of water were flushed downstream, and an additional 16,000 gallons were vacuumed out,” Creech said. “The booms held well until Saturday, due to the volume of water and extensive flooding in the area, and the booms were overwhelmed.”
Creech said the boom are still out there, and will be removed when the water recedes enough for their safe retrieval.
“There is no more visible sheen,” Creech said Jan. 13. “We did take samples, and are awaiting test results for the samples that were taken, to try to determine not only the source, the cause, but what the sheen actually contains.”
Creech said that, throughout the process, city, county and state officials were updated.
“I want to make sure I thank the Trenton DPS employees and their management team, Trenton police and Trenton firefighters,” he said. “They really did an excellent job, and there was never any complaining. They were out hour after hour, dumping truckload after truckload, and did a really good job mitigating the issue and helping protect the environment.”
Voss spoke briefly on the investigation side of the incident, and said it is a very difficult case.
“We can make assumptions, but that doesn’t go very far in the law enforcement world,” Voss said. “But we are still working on it, and we are still trying to determine if we can figure out why exactly what was in the water that day.”
Voss said they are continuing to investigate the source of the contamination.
Mayor Steve Rzeppa said a resident walking his dog Jan. 4 in the Harrison Avenue and Westfield Road area, which is south of King Road, noticed the sheen on the surface of the stream, after which the Fire Department, DPW and waste water enforcement personnel became involved to make sure that the contaminant remained contained.
“They put booms in place, along with pads, to absorb this petroleum product, but obviously, that is just appearance,” Rzeppa said. “They were able to contain it as much as possible, to make sure it didn’t move downstream, and they vacuumed water out of the drain and flushed it to make sure the contaminant got cleared out.”
Rzeppa said testing could determine, by tracing through the drain maps, how the substance got into the stream.
He said personnel responded quickly following the discovery, with the expected Jan. 11 rainfall in mind.
“There was no damage to the vegetation or wildlife,” Rzeppa said. “They said, at one point, they actually saw fish swimming underneath it, so it couldn’t have been anything too bad, but it is still obviously very important to find out what it was, and where it came from and make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”
Rzeppa said that a year ago, a truck leaving the Riverview land preserve was leaking brake fluid, which ended up in the Frank and Poet Drain.
“You never know if it was just someone cleaning out their garage and dumped it into the storm sewer,” he said. “You never know how people think or operate. Hopefully we can find out and make sure that the perpetrator ends up paying the cost of it all.”