On Sunday, January 26, a faculty member noticed the smell of fuel by the Duck Pond while he walked his dog. Upon hearing this report, Associate Director of Campus Safety Mark Sweeney and Assistant Director of Facilities Management Claudia Kent went out and discovered a sheen in the upper pond by Railroad Avenue. The incident is described in the Haverford Campus Safety brief:
Monday, January 27th 10:18 a.m. Hazardous Materials Duck Pond A large amount of oil discovered in the Duck Pond. The oil came from a nearby property, after a heating oil accident which was never reported. The Environmental Protection Agency is investigating; cleanup underway.
The investigation was handed over to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and the Fire Marshal’s Office and Sewer Department of Lower Merion Township. Investigators spent a couple days uncovering manholes to examine the storm-water run-off, but they found no traces of the oil.
The Duck Pond is a collection point for storm water that flows into the upper pond, through its lower pond and out into Cobbs Creek, which in turn connects with the Delaware River.
To prevent the oil from leaking into Cobbs Creek, the DEP and Lower Merion Township requested for booms, floating barriers that catch or deflect oil, to be replaced. The College hired New Jersey-based company Clean Ventures to put into place new booms that have effectively now absorbed the oil. Investigations into the leak are now closed.
Harsh weather that left snow and ice everywhere this winter has made it difficult to pinpoint the source of the oil. Although places with fuel, such as gas stations, are required to have spill prevention plans, Director of Facilities Management Don Campbell stipulates that oversight may have caused this minor oil leak.
“It wasn’t really that bad. A little oil in the water looks like a lot,” says Mark Sweeney. “As far as spills go, this was really small.”
While this oil spill is not a cause for concern for the surrounding wildlife and students, students are still advised not to go into the Duck Pond due to other hazardous and unsanitary factors such as animal waste, snapping turtles, and deeper parts of the pond.