AUBURN — An oil spill spotted on the Androscoggin River on Thursday morning was traced to the Lower Barker Mill Hydro turbine on the Little Androscoggin River.
Stephen Brezinski, who works in Maine Department of Environmental Protection's Response Services Division, said a few weeks ago the turbine had a leak. “They didn't clean it efficiently. Every time the sump pump went on, it discharged oil. … It's been a long-term problem. We just found the source today.”
The spill could have been a couple of gallons, Brezinski said. “It doesn't take much to make a sheen.”
Cam Churchill was walking across the Bernard Lown Peace Bridge near the Rollerdrome when he saw the oil slick on the river at 8:40 a.m.
“It was 40 feet wide and as long as I could see downstream. It was floating downstream going quite fast,” Churchill said. The size of the slick “looked pretty significant to me.”
The oil was hugging the Auburn side of the river, which to Churchill indicated it could have been coming from the Little Androscoggin.
Brezinski said after receiving information about the spill from the Sun Journal, where Churchill works, he traced it to the turbine “by going up and down the river, looking at where the oil was and where the oil was not. Upstream at the dam we saw no oil in the river. Downstream we could find the sheen.”
DEP contacted the hydro dam owners, KEI Power Management. “They sent people right down.” By the afternoon they were cleaning the turbine, Brezinski said.
If anyone sees a spill they should report it to DEP at 1-800-482-0777.
“If we don't get a call, we don't investigate it,” said DEP's Mary Corr.