DEM: Seekonk River oil spill linked to National Grid work at Tidewater site

Blackstone Valley

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — The R.I. Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is investigating after two recent oil spills on the Seekonk River were connected to work at the Tidewater Landing site.

Mike Healey, a spokesperson for the DEM, tells 12 News National Grid owns the site, which is being redeveloped into a soccer stadium.

Healey said the utility was not found to be at fault for either oil spill, the first of which occurred on Nov. 12 amid “foul weather.”

The DEM requested a marine biologist investigate whether dead fish found washed ashore along the Seekonk River are connected to the oil spills, but the biologist ultimately determined there was no link between the two, according to Healey.

Healey said only one type of fish was found dead along the riverbank, and if the fish were poisoned by the oil spill, other species would also be impacted.

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National Grid spokesperson Ted Kresse said “a portion” of oil also breached the booms and seeped into the Seekonk River on Wednesday.

Kresse said National Grid began construction activities earlier this year to remediate the Tidewater site, which previously housed a former gas manufacturing plant that was shut down in 1968.

“Part of the remediation effort includes the removal of soil containing coal tar, a byproduct of the gas manufacturing process, from an area along the riverbank,” Kresse explained.

Kresse said the DEM and National Response Center were notified of the breach immediately, and the utility is “taking additional actions to limit any further impacts, including deploying more soft and hard booms and additional matting for absorption.”

It’s unclear how much oil has seeped into the Seekonk River, which flows down into Narragansett Bay, at this time. The uncertainty has environmentalists concerned.

“It’s never good when you don’t know,” Narragansett Bay Keeper Mike Jarbeau said. “Typically, you’ll always want to assume the worst and hope for the best.”

Rep. Rebecca Kislak is seeking answers as to why the protective measures weren’t sufficient enough to prevent the spills.

“We need that impact to be studied and documented so we can be sure that the site has been sufficiently remediated after the spill and we are better prepared for the future,” she said.

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