Clean-up crews prepared to be on scene of Jetport oil spill through the night

I’m out at Thompson’s Point now trying to look across the water at the Portland International Jetport, and with the darkness falling — and rain falling — it’s tough to make out any of the clean-up effort going on to contain the nearly 600 gallons of heating oil that was spilled at the airport. State environmental officials say they’re concerned most of that made its way to the nearby Fore River, due in part to the rainy weather.

Here’s a pretty strong summary of what’s happened to cause the spill, what’s going on to contain it, what the complications are and what’s at stake, as described by DEP spokeswoman Samantha DePoy-Warren.

Maine Department of Environmental Protection responders are on-scene at the Portland Jetport, where 600 gallons of No. 2 heating oil was released due to a malfunctioning pump attached to a 600 gallon “day tank” in the mechanical/boiler room of the new terminal. The fuel went to the roof via a vent system, then into the stormwater drainage system and then into a retention pond, where some of it has been contained. A vactor truck from Clean Harbors is on scene to recover product from that pond.

However, heavy rains have moved a substantial portion of the discharged fuel into a cove on the Fore River adjacent to the runway. In part due to a natural eddy in that cove, the fuel is thought to have been mostly contained there, responders report. DEP responders, in partnership with Clean Harbors, the US Coast Guard, the Portland Fire Department and staff from the Jetport have deployed containment boom to prevent the fuel from spreading beyond the cove and their collaborative quick and skilled response will be invaluable in protecting nearby Long Creek and Thompson Point Marsh. A Coast Guard vessel that has come as far up the river as the 295 Memorial Bridge reports that the fuel has not appeared to spread beyond there. Additionally, sorbent boom and pads are being used to recover product in the cove.

There is a full moon today (which can create stronger currents) and the tide is still an outgoing one (low tide is around 4:40 p.m.) and so responders are closely monitoring the situation and will be watching the tide as it changes to ensure the spill remains contained in the cove and does not pose a threat to the marsh and Long Creek and its watershed.

The state’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has been notified (as has the Department of Marine Resources) due to a vibrant duck population in the Fore River.

The initial call of the spill was received by the DEP around noontime. There are two DEP responders on scene currently, and three more are on their way having been dispatched in the last half hour.

Flights at the jetport remain on schedule, despite the containment and cleanup efforts.

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.