Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Fuel oil spills into Schuylkill River

Oil and snow mix on the surface of the Schuylkill River in Center City Philadelphia. DEP says a total of 4200 gallons leaked from a nearby building. About 200 gallons have made it into the river.

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Oil and snow mix on the surface of the Schuylkill River in Center City Philadelphia. DEP says a total of 4200 gallons leaked from a nearby building. About 200 gallons have made it into the river.

Environmental clean up crews continue to remediate the site of a 4200-gallon heating oil spill, some of which has contaminated the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. A strong hydro-carbon odor is present in the area of contamination, which appears as a reddish sheen of oil.

The City’s Office of Emergency Management says the leak resulted in between 200 to 250 gallons of home heating oil leaking into the river beginning Saturday night. The Philadelphia Water Department was alerted to the incident via Twitter and sent a crew over to investigate.

PWD spokesman John DiGiulio says the spill is downstream of the city’s water intakes, and poses no threat to drinking water supplies.

“PWD visited the site and investigated the report that night with a follow up visit Sunday and today,” said DiGiulio in an email.

The Department of Environmental Protection says 4200 gallons of fuel oil leaked from the building located at 2400 Market Street, traveling onto the CSX tracks, and the Schuylkill River Banks trail. It’s unclear whether the oil traveled on the ground, or through the sewer system. The heavy snow has made it difficult to determine where the bulk of the oil has accumulated. DEP says much of it may be trapped in the snow.

The EPA, U.S. Coast Guard, and DEP are working on a plan to absorb the oil from the water and ice. Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Management says the building’s owner, Century Link, has hired an environmental remediation company to clean up the spill.

Mark Molven, a spokesperson for Century Link, says the investigation is ongoing, and would not provide additional comment.

Comments

  • Sara Hirschler

    This is terrible! Will Century Link be footing the bill for the EPA, US Coast Guard and DEP’s time?

    • Robert Monk

      Bad as it is, I’m much less worried about CenturyLink. I’m worried about the multi-car derail-spill-and-explosion of an oiltrain DOT-111 unit train. That scenario has occurred at least 6 times across the US in 2015 alone, and there was a derailment in ~2013 on the bridge just south of South St that left a DOT-111 oil tank car perched precariously over the Schuylkill for some days as crews carefully disassembled the wreck. The largest rail accident in American history occurred in Lac Megantic, Quebec a few years ago, and the carrier went bankrupt before covering even the first 3 months of immmediate-response costs. The regional governments of the area are left with the 52 person death toll, destruction of a downtown area, and $Billions in reconstruction / cleanup costs.

      US DOT Federal Railways Administration (USDOTFRA) predicts that, in addition to increasing annual crude-by-rail accidents on a par with the >6 major incidents in 2015, there will be another >$5.5Billion or greater single catastrophe impacting an urban area within 20 years. Rail carriers simply cannot get insurance over $1Billion for these incidents, and their unit trains should be shut down until the oil shippers put up their own $10Billion bonds against catastrophes or develop an insurance market for their trade that is sufficient to the potential liabilities. Check Wikipedia “DOT-111″ rail cars, “Lac Megantic” “crude-by-rail” and #oiltrains for more on all of this.

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »

Economy
Education