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Crews cleaning up gasoline and beef tallow from Fore River

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  September 24, 2013 04:14 PM

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Two different spills in the Fore River have kept crews busy since Sunday, as containment and cleanup work continues.

“It’s very unusual,” said Quincy Police Lieutenant Bob Gillian. “…There is a slew of safety procedures to prevent this from happening that has reduced these types of occurrences. It’s not usual at all.”

Quincy Police said crews have been on site since Sunday morning, when they received a report of oil sheen on the river.

According to police, crews traced the source to an RDA Construction barge, which had been leaking several gallons of diesel fuel. Clean Harbors, Norwell-based environmental cleanup company, was hired to help contain the spill and begin the cleanup.

Part of the river was shut down to recreational boaters for several hours, though no commercial vehicles were affected, Gillian said.

While dealing with that response, police noticed pie-looking substances floating in the water. A sampling determined the substance to be a material called beef tallow, which is derived from animal fat.

According to Gillian, crews discovered that a different barge operated by cement company Lafarge had been leaking the substance, and clean up efforts were expanded to include the tallow.

Coast Guard responders said the oil sheen cleanup has since been completed. Investigators believe a couple gallons of the fuel was spilled into the river, but noted that just a drop of gasoline can produce a 50-foot sheen.

“What could be recovered has been as far as product is concerned,” said William Trapnell, a petty officer with the Coast Guard. “It’s hard to go out there and retrieve a gallon of diesel fuel, it disperses so quickly in the water. It makes it almost impossible.”

Cleanup and containment of the tallow spill is ongoing, Trapnell said.

Scott Metzger, senior vice president of field services for Clean Harbor, didn’t know much of the oil spill, but said the tallow spill was not significant.

“[Cleanup] is mostly being done with personnel, not a lot of heavy equipment on the job, just fine tuning and picking up some material, a little bit of shoreline cleaning,” Metzger said.

Areas along the Quincy, Weymouth, and Braintree shoreline were impacted by the Crisco-looking substance.

Regardless of the size of the pollution, Trapnell said any incident like this would elicit some type of reaction from law enforcement.

“The enforcement process is something the Coast Guard takes with every pollution case, regardless of the product or severity,” Trapnell said.

Enforcement can be as simple as a letter of warning, to a notice of violation and an accompanying civil penalty. Police are still organizing a response.

Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protections spokesman Ed Coletta also said his organization might look at penalties.

“It’s something we’d look at down the line,” he said. “Right now we’re mostly interested in making sure it’s contained and cleaned up and assess if there is any damage to the environment.”

Engineers would be hired to survey the area and determine possible impacts, Coletta said.

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