National Grid says coal tar leaked into Seekonk River again

Blackstone Valley

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (AP) — No more than 20 gallons of “weathered coal tar oil” leaked into the Seekonk River Tuesday from the site of a former coal burning plant that is being redeveloped into a soccer stadium, National Grid said.

the leak was at least the second time coal tar has leaked into the river in a month, leaving a sheen on the water and reports of the smell of oil or diesel, The Boston Globe reported.

A spokesperson for National Grid said there was no spill and it was difficult to quantify the volume of contaminates that breached protective barriers.

“It’s more of an oil seep coming from contaminated soils that are being remediated as part of the environmental cleanup at the Tidewater site,” spokesperson Ted Kresse told the newspaper, referring to a large redevelopment project where a soccer stadium is planned.

National Grid owns the land where the Pawtucket Gas Co. began burning coal to make gas in the 1880s. Significant toxic waste was found in the ground in 1996, three decades after the plant closed.

Coal tar is “dark viscous material that is denser than water and persistent in the environment,” according to documents on the development’s website that describe the contamination and remediation work.

The state Department of Environmental Management said bad weather on Nov. 12 allowed oil to breach the protective barriers and enter the river. The agency told National Grid to bring in stronger booms, which it did, the newspaper reported.

On Dec. 1, Mike Healey, chief public affairs officer for DEM told the newspaper, workers “disturbed” the soil under a temporary hard cap, oil again breached the barriers, and the company called for emergency crews to come assist. Residents reported the smell of oil and posted photos online of dead fish, though Healey said the fish deaths were not connected to the oil leak.

DEM will not fine the company for the breaches, Healey told the newspaper, adding that National Grid did what it was supposed to by notifying the agency and emergency crews.

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