Town well, drinking water supplies not affected by ash overflow
Shrewsbury – Assistant Town Manager Michael Hale said that wells and drinking water supplies in the Green Street neighborhood have not been aff ected by ash that overflowed the area at the town landfill where it is dumped.
The overflow occurred, Hale said, because of the heavy rains that pelted the area March 14 and 15.
“We’ve been in constant contact with Wheelabrator, which runs the landfill, and the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) since literally minutes after the overflow occurred,” Hale said. “DEP has confirmed that no drinking supplies, no area well were affected. The only area aff ected was the wetlands area that the ash overflowed into.”
Hale said that Wheelabrator and the DEP are cleaning up the site with large vacuum trucks that suck the ash off the top of the wetlands. Hale said the cleanup began shortly after the overflow was discovered and will continue until the end of the month.
“It’s a different kind of spill than an oil spill or a spill that involves contaminated liquids,” Hale said, “because the ash just sits on the surface and doesn’t get immersed into the wetlands. It’s still a very slow process, though, because you’re trying to clean up the spill while at the same time not disturb the wetlands area any more than necessary.”
Hale said the portion of the landfill where the spill occurred is actually built to prevent incidents like this.
“A steep slope is built beside the dumping area and there is a hole at the base as a precaution in case the slope were to give way,” Hale said. “For the first time in 22 years a section of the slope collapsed and fell into the hole.
“Because the hole was quite full with the water from the storms that occurred those two days,” Hale said, “the part of the slope that gave way and fell into the hole created a swale that rose up and over the hill and took a small section of ash with it over the hill and into the nearby wetlands area.”
Hale said after the spill representatives from Wheelabrator notified residents in the area that the overflowed occurred, but that their drinking water supplies or wells were not affected. Hale said wells and drinking water supplies in close proximity to the overflow, but removed from the immediate area, were not aff ected, either.
“I wouldn’t call it a major incident,” Hale said. “It was more like Mother Nature disrupted the normal routine that the town and Wheelabrator and the DEP have put together for disposing of this ash and we’re dealing with it. I think every precaution that can be taken was taken.”
Hale said normal protocol for an incident such as this was followed and that if the DEP had detected a problem with regard to the wetlands area or the surrounding wells and drinking supplies, they would have immediately notified the state and town officials. Hale said neither the state nor the town was notified regarding this by the DEP, but rather that Wheelabrator, at the request of the town and the following of its own protocol, notified the DEP itself.
Hale said he received one email from a concerned resident regarding the overflow.
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