Oil Leak at NY Plant Site

Wednesday, October 19, 2016 @ 01:10 PM gHale

A 100-gallon oil leak sprung up from bedrock underneath the environmental cleanup site at the former New York Air Brake plant off Starbuck Avenue.

The subject of the oil leak was brought up by Peter S. Ouderkirk, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) project manager for the Air Brake plant remediation, during a presentation at Monday night’s Watertown, NY, City Council meeting.

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Ouderkirk said the hydraulic oil escaped from bedrock following a rainy weekend and seeped up to the surface in a crater crews had dug to remove contaminated soil. The oil spill ended up discovered almost three weeks ago when workers returned to work after the weekend, Ouderkirk said.

The oil spill was found on the eastern portion of the Allison Test Room excavation, where some 5,000 cubic yards of sediment and soil have been removed as part of a $1 million remediation at the site of the Watertown Center for Business and Industry.

“Sometimes things pop up,” Ouderkirk said. “Sometimes when you’re digging, you find unknowns.”

DEC officials and SPX, the North Carolina company legally responsible for the Air Brake cleanup, will work together to determine its origin and how to clean it up, a DEC spokeswoman said.

“There are no immediate threats to public health or the environment from this spill,” the DEC spokeswoman said in the email.

SPX — which owned the Starbuck plant when many of the pollutants were dumped decades ago — reported the oil spill on Sept. 30 to the DEC spill incidents database, according to a document obtained by the Watertown Daily Times. It was unclear how much time had elapsed between the spill discovery and its report to DEC officials.

But representatives from SPX, its consultant and DEC were “mobilized to the site to manage the oil and effectively address the situation,” the DEC spokeswoman wrote.

The Allison Test Room project includes excavating some 5,000 cubic yards of petroleum-and-solvent-polluted soil from an area slightly larger than 17,000 square feet, according to a fact sheet released this summer by DEC.