Accidental Release of Calcium Carbonate Turns Hoosic River White
ADAMS, Mass — The Hoosic River turned a greyish-white color on Tuesday after the accidental release of calcium carbonate into the river.
Following a discharge of the calcium carbonate into the settling ponds of the Specialty Minerals plant in Adams on Nov. 16, the river was visibly white from Adams to the Vermont state line. Calcium carbonate is not toxic to humans or animals.
"The substance in the river is a common mineral found readily around the world in general, and specifically in the ground surrounding our plant in Adams Mass," said Michael Landau, director of corporate communications at SMI, in a statement to iBerkshires. "It is an inert, non-toxic and natural form of calcium carbonate, also known as chalk or limestone. Calcium carbonate is non-toxic and is often consumed by people or animals in food, medicines, or as an anti-acid."
After hearing what had happened to the river, Town Administrator Jay Green arranged a meeting with the Northern Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee and representatives from SMI, Adams, North Adams and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. Green said at Wednesday's Board of Selectmen meeting that he appreciated everyone who helped fix the situation.
"I'd like to thank so many people this morning who showed up here," he said. "Chairman [John] Duval was here, Dr. [David] Rhoads from the Board of Health was here. Not only our paid staff, but some of our stipend folks, such as Chief [Richard] Kleiner, Mayor Tom Bernard appeared here, his staff, his Board of Health Chair [Northern Berkshire EMS] Chief John Meaney, was here. We had a really productive conversation."
Green read a statement from the Northern Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee at the meeting, which summarized the situation.
"Specialty Minerals stated that they had a 'process upset' and immediately upon being discovered they shut down their operation until their settling ponds have cleared and treatment could meet their permit limits," the statement said.
After taking samples, the state Department of Environmental Protection confirmed that the discharge did not pose a health risk to humans. MassDEP will continue sampling the water over the coming days.
Landau said after discovering the calcium carbonate discharge, SMI employees contacted MassDEP and other relevant authorities. He said MassDEP staff have been on-site and will continue to monitor the situation.
"The team acted quickly to ensure the release was contained shortly after occurring and has been conducting an investigation, with the support of the MassDEP, to identify the root cause of the release," he said. "This activity is also in compliance with our permitting requirement. As a result, we have ceased relevant operations until we can confirm the site is in compliance with all applicable permits. With respect to cleanup, we will be working with the MassDEP to determine any corrective actions necessary."
Rhoads said he is relieved that the incident did not release anything toxic into the river.
"I totally appreciate Specialty Minerals and all of the efforts they take to get it right and to work with a town," he said. "I feel badly that they had this accident, but we're all working together to address the public awareness program, as well as how to prevent something like this from happening in the future, and I'm very happy that it was no hazard."
NB-REPC said in its statement that the committee and Adams will continue monitoring the situation and provide updates.
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