NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ- The Weston Mills pumping station has shut down operations, ceasing the intake of water, in response to an oil spill in Mill Pond in Milltown. The pumping station will remain offline until there is a full clean-up.
Mill Pond is a section of the Lawrence Brook Watershed, a source of New Brunswick’s water. On October 4, the New Brunswick Water Utility received a call from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) alerting the City to the spill.
“On Tuesday, DEP’s Bureau of Emergency Response (BER) responded to the report of a transformer oil spill at the old Michelin facility in Milltown,” said DEP spokesman Bob Considine. “They observed three large transformers laying on the ground. They had been removed and placed on the ground by a demolition contractor on site and oil had leaked from the transformers.”
The DEP said oil had migrated to nearby Milltown Pond, causing a slight sheen.
The Middlesex County Hazardous Materials Unit (Hazmat) deployed an inflatable vetter bag into a storm drain outfall to stop the discharge of oil into the water. Absorbent and containment booms were also deployed.
“Out of an abundance of caution, a New Brunswick Water intake about three miles upstream was taken out of service,” Considine said.
According to the DEP, the demolition contractor hired an environmental clean-up service to clean up the oil on site and in the pond. About 600 gallons of remaining oil was pumped from the three transformers. Clean-up is ongoing.
“Given the existence of an alternative water supply source, erring on the side of caution makes complete sense, and it is clear that New Brunswick plans to do so,” said Daniel Van Abs, PhD and an Associate Professor of Practice for Water, Society and Environment at Rutgers University.
“Long term, the ecological impacts should be local to the spill if it is relatively small, contained, and captured quickly,” he added. “If oil gets into sediments or wetlands areas, the ecological impacts would last longer. This incident raises again the need for ongoing, collaborative protection of the water supply source by all municipalities in the Lawrence Brook watershed, and by other relevant state and county agencies.”
According to a city press release, water utility staff will continue to sample and monitor the water quality, working with Middlesex County and Milltown officials as well as representatives from the DEP.
DEP and county officials will remain on-scene to monitor the site and cleanup. DEP representatives will remain in contact with the city, reporting on the progress of the cleanup.
“Work will continue until the spill is mitigated. No timeframe on that as of yet,” Considine said.