About 200 gallons of heating oil is believed to have spilled into a small stream from a leaky refrigeration unit at an Elkridge food distributor Thursday night, state environmental officials said.
Representatives from the Maryland Department of the Environment were called to the scene of the spill at Hearn-Kirkwood Corp., in the 6600 block of Santa Barbara Road, about 10 p.m., said John Goheen, a department spokesman.
County fire crews tried to prevent the oil from moving downstream and used absorbent materials to soak up what they could, Mr. Goheen said.
The unnamed stream, located near the intersection of Melrose and Athol avenues, is a tributary of Deep Run, which flows into the Patapsco Valley State Park.
The stream is a short distance from Hearn-Kirkwood's facility at the Route 100 Industrial Park.
County and state officials traced the fuel to a refrigeration truck parked at Hearn-Kirkwood that was hooked up to a 275-gallon heating oil tank inside the facility, Mr. Goheen said.
A plastic tube that connected the truck and tank contained a small hole, which caused the fuel to spill, Mr. Goheen said.
Hearn-Kirkwood has hired A & A Environmental Services of Baltimore to help with the cleanup, Mr. Goheen said.
While recent rainstorms diluted the fuel and decreased the potential for environmental damage of the stream, much of the fuel has been swept away and cannot be recovered, Mr. Goheen said.
"That's sort of a good-news, bad-news scenario," he said.
Environmental officials believe that only a small amount of fuel -- about 15 gallons -- can be recovered, he said.
Nearby residents, who noticed a strong odor of oil, alerted
authorities to the spill, officials said.