Rains wash fuel oil spills out of homes

January 29, 1994|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Staff Writer

Heavy rains flooding home fuel oil tanks caused four spills in Havre de Grace yesterday, but quick response prevented serious environmental problems, emergency operations authorities said.

The first incident occurred about 8:30 a.m. when 120 gallons of fuel oil cascaded down the 300 block of Franklin St. and flowed into the Susquehanna River, said Cpl. Clarence Ross of the Hazardous Materials Response Team, which is based at the Emergency Operations Center in Hickory.

The ice-covered streets delayed emergency operations a bit, but Corporal Ross said volunteers from the Susquehanna Hose Company, HazMat and the U.S. Coast Guard quickly spread booms to confine the fuel oil.

"The ice and slush helped keep the spill confined," said Corporal Ross, adding that the Coast Guard has called in Clean America Inc., a Baltimore contractor that specializes in recovery of spills.

The spill originated in the 400 block of Green St., where a home fuel oil tank developed a leak, Corporal Ross said.

The second spill was discovered shortly after the first in the 600 block of Green St. A tank under a house there had not been used in several years and developed a slow leak, Corporal Ross said.

The ground is too frozen to reach the tank, but he said booms have been set up to keep the small spillage from reaching storm drains. "We're monitoring the situation and will continue to do so until we can get in there to the tank and remove it," he said.

The third spill occurred in the 300 block of South Union Ave., where water flooded the basement near the furnace and washed out about a half-gallon of fuel oil, Corporal Ross said.

The HazMat team had hardly returned to headquarters when the fourth spill was located about 3 p.m. at a service station in the 600 block of Revolution St.

"Apparently it's an old waste materials tank," Corporal Ross said. "We're still running tests on it, but we know it's full of water, so it's probably sprung a leak, forcing the old oil to come up out of the ground."

Some of the waste reached the city's sewer system, but Corporal Ross said he did not think it would cause any serious harm. "We're waiting on officials from the Maryland Department of the Environment to check it out now," Corporal Ross said at 5 p.m. He said emergency workers would likely wrap up the fourth operation by 7 p.m. About 30 workers were kept busy by the four spills for about 11 hours, excluding the Coast Guard personnel on hand, Corporal Ross said.

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