Controlled burn to remove oil

BRISTOL – The U.S. EPA is considering holding a controlled burn of the creek contaminated by crude oil that leaked when the valve of a tank on Mahan Denman Road reportedly was intentionally opened.

So far, with the use of vacuums and absorbent bales, about 1,150 gallons of oil was recovered. It is estimated that in total 1,600 gallons of crude spilled from the tank, according to Betsy Nightingale, the EPA on-scene coordinator assigned to the spill.

Nightingale is leading a team of 11, with 10 on cleanup and one technical assistant.

To tackle the spill, they divided three-quarters of a mile of the stream into six segments. The first segment, nearest to the tank, was heavily contaminated. Nightingale said that as of Thursday, they had excavated 60 tons of soil in the segment.

Excavating in other segments will prove more difficult since the area is wooded. However, Nightingale said there is a dense layer of clay about three feet from the surface which has prevented the oil from penetrating too deeply into the soil.

The removed soil will be disposed of in a landfill and replaced with clean soil.

“Oil does break down over time in nature. We are looking at expediting the process,” Nightingale said.

Certain fertilizers can speed up the decomposition of oil. This may be used in areas that are too difficult to dig up, she said.

In other segments along the creek, Nightingale said they have been working on removing contaminated vegetation. In one or two of the sections where there is a particularly large amount of vegetation in the creek, Nightingale said a controlled burn of the creek may be used to get rid of the excess oil.

Nightingale said the decision for a controlled burn was made based on the recommendation of several experts. However, it is contingent on the weather. She said it would most likely happen early next week when it is not raining.

Temporary dams have also been set up throughout the creek to redirect the flow of water, while catching and holding oil where it can be vacuumed up by the workers. At the end of the three-quarters a mile, a larger siphon dam has been set up to collect oil run-off.

Even with the oil, Nightingale said she hasn’t seen adverse affects on the animals in the area.

“I haven’t seen much effect on the wildlife. The frogs seem okay. They just jump in the water when we come by,” she said.

Wildlife may suffer long term consequences that occur down the road. Nightingale said they should have the bulk of the oil out by next week, but that monitoring the area will have to continue into the future.

“It’s going to be a while,” Nightingale said.

Nightingale said the Ohio EPA has agreed to monitor the collection points from the temporary dams.

The valve was left open about May 1. The U.S. EPA took over the cleanup this week after the Ohio EPA’s contract ran out with Chemtron, a company that had been doing the cleanup.

The culprit for the spill remains unknown according to the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office.

The property is owned by Percy Tenney, who was in the hospital recovering from surgery when the incident happened.