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February 27. 2013 1:37PM

Oil leak into the Nashua River is being monitored

NASHUA — City and state officials are investigating the cause of an oil leak into the Nashua River, trying to determine the source of the spill that started this past weekend and continued Wednesday.

About 10 sausage booms and approximately 20 absorbent pads have been placed along the edge of the Nashua River near Water Street, in the vicinity of Le Parc de Notre Renaissance Francaise, a small downtown park between Main Street and Water Street. The oil was first noticed Saturday, but it became more of a concern Wednesday when the rainfall seemed to alter some of the booms.

“Today we adjusted the booms after an oily sheen was again seen on the water,” Deputy Chief Michael O’Brien said Wednesday. “We are still investigating the source of this leak.”

Although the cause is still speculation, O’Brien said it is possible that someone may have illegally dumped used engine oil into a storm drain that enters into the north bank of the Nashua River.

In Nashua, as well as some other older communities, there are still existing storm drains that mix with the sewer system. These combination systems still exist in Nashua in a limited capacity, and during severe downpours when a lot of water mixes into the system, it can overwhelm the drain, according to O’Brien, who said unwanted products can be released into the water supply.

Some of the storm drain outlets, or grate bars, are located in the city adjacent to the Nashua River, explained O’Brien.

“I do not want to give the impression that this is a catastrophic leak. Very little oil will create a sheen on the water,” said O’Brien. “I don’t think we have an extreme amount of (oil) product, but we do have a leak into our waterway, and that is a concern.”

It is hard to determine exactly how much oil has already been released into the river, but O’Brien said the booms and absorbent pads that were installed Saturday are not yet filled to capacity, and they did not need to be replaced Wednesday -- just relocated and adjusted because of the rain.

Several agencies are trying to determine the source of the leak, including Nashua Fire Rescue, Nashua Public Works Department, and the Wastewater Treatment Facility in Nashua. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Environmental Services have also been notified.

“It is going to be a lengthy investigation,” said O’Brien. “But it is under control, and it is being monitored.”

Fire crews will check on the booms twice a day to determine whether they need to be replaced and also to adjust the absorbent pads based on new water currents.


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