“Without the quick action and thinking of several city employees, this toxic pollution could have caused serious risk to the neighborhood, the city’s sewer system and the environment,” stated Director of Public Services Michael Bobinsky.
Tuesday morning, an illegal discharge of oil was discovered by a City of Portland Public Services employee at the corner of Falmouth Street and St. John Street. Between 150-200 gallons of the fuel mixture had been illicitly dumped into both catch basins located at the intersection of the two streets and was discovered when the city employee was able to track down the fumes detected in the air. The two catch basins drain directly into the city’s combined sewer/stormwater system, which empties into a nearby pumping station. The illegal discharge caused a dangerous situation with the risk of poisonous gases leaking into nearby homes and the possibility of the fuels combusting within the drainage system.
Upon discovery of the discharge, Portland Police and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (Maine DEP) were immediately notified. Shortly thereafter, Portland Police Officers located a flatbed truck with three empty fuel barrels at Schnitzer Steel on Riverside Street. Samples taken from the barrels match the liquid illegally dumped in the catch basins. The barrels had been sold to Schnitzer Steel by Dominique Covington. Maine DEP’s enforcement will handle the investigation and pursuit of possible fines and costs for clean-up. The Maine DEP and city staff and a local environmental clean-up group worked to remove the fuel from the catch basins.
“Whether a catch basin drains to the bay or into the city’s sewer treatment facility, illegal dumping is a serious issue with long lasting environmental consequences. While this week’s example is extreme, we deal daily with waste improperly tossed down a catch basin. Whether it’s a cigarette butt, dog waste, lawn clips or motor oil, they need to be disposed of properly.” said Bobinsky.
“Improper disposal of oil is not only a violation of Maine law, but seriously threatens Maine’s environment and our drinking water as this harmful pollutant makes its way into nearby water bodies and water supplies,” stated Barbara Parker Director of Response Service for the Maine DEP. “The Maine Department of Environmental Protection and countless local, state and federal entities work tirelessly to steward Casco Bay and we ask that the public be our partners in its protection by properly disposing of used oil products at one of the dozens of convenient recycling centers that accept it –including several in Cumberland County– to ensure they do not injure this invaluable natural resource and public health.”
If someone knows of or suspects an oil or hazmat spill, they are asked to immediately call the Maine DEP’s 24-hour response services at 800-482-0777. The Maine DEP responds to approximately three thousand calls a year.