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US EPA and Massachusetts DEP Conclude Initial Phase of Cleanup at Site of Interstate 195 Gasoline Spill

Release Date: 12/10/2001
Contact Information: Theresa Barao, Massachusetts DEP Press Office (508) 946-2724 Ed Coletta, Massachusetts DEP Press Office (617) 292-5737 Mark Merchant, EPA New England Press Office (617-918-1013)

Fairhaven, Mass. – The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have completed their initial emergency response work at the site of a Dec. 2 tanker truck accident on Route 195.

Fairhaven firefighters were called to the scene about 11 p.m. and immediately went to work to stabilize the scene and prevent the truck from exploding. After dealing with the immediate danger, the fire department began the process of halting the environmental damage and called the DEP who, in turn, notified EPA.

"In accidents like this, the key to minimizing as much environmental damage is in the hands of the first responders, in this case the Fairhaven fire department. They did an outstanding job and have my gratitude," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office.

In all, more than 9,000 gallons of gasoline spilled from the truck into an embankment just off the highway and an adjacent wetland, which is approximately two acres in size.

Clean Harbors, an environmental cleanup company based in Braintree removed the gasoline remaining in the tanker – about 1,000 gallons – and gasoline that had pooled in and near a wetland area.

Once the tanker was removed from the accident scene at about 2 p.m. Monday, Dec. 3 Clean Harbors began removing contaminated soil from the area of the accident, in addition to continuing work in the wetland. The contaminated soil is still at the scene, and plans for decontaminating it are being formulated.

Short trenches have been dug in the immediate area of the accident scene in which residual gasoline is being allowed to pool. That gasoline is then removed with absorbent pads or a vacuum truck. So far, several thousand gallons have been removed.

Air quality monitoring began shortly after the accident, and high levels of gasoline vapors were detected during Monday and Tuesday. The vapors are not considered an immediate risk to human health and have dropped off since the cleanup work started.

Some gasoline was detected in a nearby stream after the accident. An absorbent boom was placed across the it to prevent the gasoline from migrating downstream. Shellfish beds in Fairhaven have been closed as a precaution, but so far no contamination has been detected.

Fairhaven's public water supply wells are not near the accident scene. However there are number of private wells. Initial tests show no contamination, and they will continue to be monitored.

The long-term work of DEP and EPA will be to monitor the cleanup and ensure it is done properly and to monitor the effects the gasoline has on the wetland.

"The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is fortunate to have such a highly capable state DEP. We look forward for working with them to ensure that public health and the environment are protected."

The cost of the cleanup is being paid for the company which owned the truck, J.P Noonan of West Bridgewater, Mass.