Seekonk River oil spill under investigation

Pawtucket, RI (WLNE) –  There has been an oil spill in the Seekonk River in Pawtucket.

ABC6 News Crews arrived at the scene and were able to see workers out on boats checking the area, as well as workers in wetsuits in the water. They also noticed some dead fish as well.

Crews from Coastal Resources Management were seen doing a preliminary investigation after a complaint was made about the state of the river.

Some Pawtucket residents said they didn’t see the oil sheen and smell when coming down for the boat launch.

A resident told ABC6, “I come down here everyday in the morning and the afternoon…I don’t see anything unusual”

Another resident who talked to ABC6 said “there’s a overwhelming smell of either diesel fuel or hydraulics I’m not sure”

The also said, “all the work that’s been over there they might’ve done something up you know, its possible?”

There is no word on if the oil spill is connected to the construction nearby.

Officials from National Grid said the site once held a former gas manufacturing plant which was shut down in 1968.

Later in a statement National Grid said, “While booms have been set up in the water to capture coal tar oils from being carried into the Seekonk River during the cleanup efforts, a portion of these oils breached the booms yesterday.  That breach has resulted in a sheen that can now be seen on the water. “

National Grid told ABC6 The Department of Environmental Management and The National Response Center were notified of the breach and that they’re working to lessen the impact with tactics like hard and soft booms as well as matting to absorb the oil.

State Senator Meghan Kallman released a statement on the oil spill,

“Earlier in 2021, National Grid began remediation of the Tidewater site in Pawtucket, which has been home to a gas manufacturing plant that closed in the late 1960s. Site remediation is the process of removing polluted or contaminated soil, sediment, surface water, or groundwater; a polluted site can have a serious impact on human health, water supplies, eco-systems and even on building structures.

As part of the remediation effort, oil was spilled in the Seekonk River yesterday, creating an oil slick on the water. I called the spill in to DEM this morning, following a tipoff and some photographs from a constituent who wishes to remain anonymous. DEM had been unaware of the spill and referred it to the Coastal Resources Management Council (CMRC), because the river is in the CRMC’s jurisdiction.

This is not how regulatory bodies or communities should ever, ever have to find out about oil spills–particularly when those spills are hazardous to human, animal, and ecological health. Entities involved in remediation have the obligation to communicate clearly and promptly about this and any related issue.

National Grid consummately failed to do so.

As the district Senator, it is my expectation that the National Grid keeps the city of Pawtucket, DEM, and the Coastal Resources Management Council informed about such issues as they occur, rather than waiting for the public to report problems. It is my expectation that all entities concerned be proactive about communication when such problems occur. It is my expectation that National Grid acts swiftly and decisively to contain and clean up this spill to protect the health of people, animals, and the river itself. It is my expectation that National Grid does everything in its power to prevent another unacceptable accident like this.

Anything that happens within the city’s jurisdiction matters to us as the residents and elected officials of this community. We deserve complete and prompt information, as well as immediate action.”

Representative Rebecca Kislak issues a statement Friday regarding the oil spills in the Seekonk River,

“We need to ensure that our systems designed to support environmental integrity and resilience in Rhode Island are secure. We are learning from the news of recent oil spills in the Seekonk River in Pawtucket that our monitoring, reporting and enforcement systems need to be strengthened to adequately protect our environment.

“National Grid is cleaning up a brownfield in preparation for construction of a soccer stadium in Pawtucket. There have been multiple oil spills over the last month. I am grateful to the keen eye and insistence of my constituent Alex Hornstein, who is why we have documentation – video from November 10. And this may not have been the first, as Alex saw oil slicks on the river as early as November 4, and I share his concerns about why National Grid or their contractors didn’t report the earlier spill, why there was a second spill, and what needs to be done to ensure the safety of the site for our environment and all of us.

“A major, recurring spill like this one has a significant impact on the environment.  We need to understand what went wrong here; why weren’t protective measures sufficient, and how can we ensure better protection for our water and shoreline in the future. 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 our future.

“I am grateful to my observant constituent who documented and reported the earlier spill. The environment belongs to all of us and the plans for the site should be readily available and easily understood, and the process for reporting a concern should be clear. Let’s come together now to improve our systems of accountability, both at this one construction site and for our local systems of reporting and enforcement.”


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