Pittsfield Fined For Green Discharge In Housatonic RiverPITTSFIELD, Mass. — Chemically-treated boiler water discharged into the Housatonic River during June maintenance work at Pittsfield High School has resulted in a $6,325 fine from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
School personnel were draining three boilers through a floor drain that workers believed went into the city's sewer system but was instead a storm drain that emptied into the river. According to DEP, up to 4,700 gallons were discharged. The green liquid contained a number of chemicals including sodium hydroxide and sodium nitrite.
River samples indicated a pH level above 10 and river waters should have a 7 pH level. The city cleaned out the affected floor and storm drainage system and submitted a cleanup summary on Aug. 12 that stated no significant impact to the river occurred, according to DEP.
Pittsfield Ordered to Clean Up Green Goo
MassDEPThis green fluid was being discharged into the river from Pittsfield High School last week.
By Jane Winn
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The BEAT sent an update about last week's green spill into the Housatonic River, with information from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The flow was caused by school maintenance personnel draining boilers into a storm drain they believed discharged into the city's sewer system. Instead, it flowed directly into the river. The hazardous materials team from the Fire Department responded to the first notification of the green substance on Thursday, June 17. "The discharge of the green liquid had ceased, and sampling was inconclusive as to the material," according to DEP.
When police notified DEP the next morning that it was still flowing, the state dispatched a team that traced it back to the high school.
The first boiler had been drained on Thursday, resulting in the notification on that date. The second boiler was drained on Friday, June 18, and the state response team prevented the draining of the third boiler.
A sampling of the river found a pH value of greater than 10 at the discharge site but no fishkill was found as a result of the discharge.
DEP said a review of the Material Safety Data Sheet provided by the school for the boiler treatment product indicated that it contained a number of chemicals, including sodium hydroxide and sodium nitrite. The school estimates that approximately 1,200 gallons were discharged.
DEP ordered the city to retain an emergency response contractor to vacuum the storm drain system and prevent further discharge of the material to the Housatonic River. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection were notified of the incident.
Original post, 11:19 a.m., June 19, 2010
Discharge Turns Housatonic Neon Green
Submitted photoBEAT found bright green liquid flowing into the Housatonic on Friday morning was discharge from the cleaning of a boiler at a nearby facility. The neon fluid was still coming out of the drain in the late afternoon.
Indeed, there was still bright green liquid coming out of the storm drain outfall pipes. We called 1-888-VIOLATE, the Massachusetts Environmental Strikeforce.
The gentleman at the Strikeforce said the liquid could be just dye testing of storm drain lines, but he would call and find out if the Department of Environmental Protection in Springfield had been notified of any dye testing in Pittsfield.
While he did that, BEAT called the Pittsfield Department of Public Works. We told the person who answered that we were concerned about this neon-green fluid and wanted to know if there was dye testing happening in that location.
"Not that I am aware of," was the response. That answer was not enough, so we explained that either this was innocuous dye testing or a major environmental violation. "It is being dealt with," was the new response. That was not sufficient: Eventually the person from Public Works stated unequivocally that the liquid was not from a dye test.
As soon as we hung up with the city, we received a follow-up call from the DEP. They confirmed the green liquid was not a dye test but instead from someone cleaning out a boiler. The DEP said the person who disposed of the liquid thought it would go to the sewer treatment plant. It is unclear that even that would have been permissible.
The Berkshire Eagle reported late Friday that after contacting the Fire Department and Public Works, they were told it was a "non-toxic substance used to test for leaks in the plumbing at Pittsfield High School." The reason for the discrepancies was not explained.
Our understanding is that this started possibly Thursday night. BEAT wonders if anyone didn't anyone stop the liquid from continuing to enter the Housatonic River and if the facility will be fined for the violation? Will the illicit connection to the storm-water system be removed? Will the public ever know exactly what happened?
This was not the first violation BEAT called about Friday. Work at Clapp Park was polluting the west branch of the Housatonic River this morning — a violation that we had warned the Pittsfield conservation agent might happen several days ago, before the river turned mud brown for miles.
(BEAT was made aware of the discharge after a friend sent a friend photos of the suspicious green fluid, which then ended up on iBerkshires' Facebook page. This article appears on the BEAT website and was edited here for style.)