Fuel from tank leak spills into Contoocook River

  • Booms on top of the Contoocook River stop the downstream flow of a fuel oil spill in Bennington on Saturday. Courtesy photos—

  • Booms on top of the Contoocook River stop the downstream flow of a fuel oil spill in Bennington on Saturday. Courtesy photos—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/10/2019 5:54:12 PM

A fuel spill from a Bennington home caused leaking into the nearby Contoocook River on Saturday.

Bennington Deputy Fire Chief Matt Hall said crews had just returned from a mutual aid call for a fire caused by a lightning strike in Hancock at around 4 p.m. Saturday, when a citizen approached them to report that she smelled fuel near her home on School Street and could see a substance being leaked into the river from the culvert in her yard.

When crews checked for themselves, they saw red substance leaking into the river.

“Immediately, we tried to stop it,” Hall said. “Containment was real quick.”

The fire department has floating booms they can deploy to stop contaminants from spreading, he said, and put them out on the river and at the culvert discharging the contaminated water. They weren’t able to launch a boat in the area, Hall said, and had to deploy the booms and absorbent mats from the bridge over the Contoocook River. 

The department tracked the spill through the town’s culvert system, and were able to identify the source – a residence on Acre Street.

Hall said it’s likely the heating oil tank, located in the basement, had been leaking for several days, due to the amount of oil spilled. However, it only began leaking into the river due to Saturday’s rain. The dirt basement flooded, and a sump pump began pumping the water – and oil – out of the basement and into a culvert, where it flowed to the river.

Based on the amount of fuel in the tank, Hall said, about 150 gallons leaked from the tank. Most of that never left the basement, but the department estimates 50 gallons or more may have made it into the river.

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services were called to the scene, and Clean Harbors, which specializes in hazardous waste disposal, responded to clean the spill. Hall said it is routine to contact the Department of Environmental Services for even small fuel spills, and especially in a case such as Saturday’s, when there was the potential for a contamination to a waterway.

The fire department was on scene for more than six hours on Saturday, dealing with the spill and coordinating with state agencies. The spill was absorbed, and Hall said there will be state officials in Bennington this week, testing the soil for lingering contamination.

“They’ve cleaned up the bulk of everything that can be cleaned up in the river, and the expectation is that whatever might be left will dissipate,” Hall said.


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