, Newburyport, MA

Local News

July 15, 2013

Over the top

Spills on banks of Merrimack spark environmental, health concerns


Steve Harwood, operations director at the treatment plant, notified the DEP about the overflows on July 2 in an email that now appears to have been overly optimistic.

“We have the foam contained with jersey barriers,” Harwood said in his email to Mohatny Nihar, a DEP engineer. “As of now the foam has subsided on 2 of the 3 digesters and slowing down on the 3rd.”

Things apparently worsened as the week went on.

Three days later, aerial photographs showed wide streams of the sludge running past the containment barriers, pooling on the service road that loops past the tanks and flowing into the adjoining wetlands and the two storm drains that serve the area. A warning posted in a sludge-saturated stretch of the wetlands warns, “Protected wetlands. Restricted access.”

On Tuesday, at least two of the three tanks were gushing sludge, streaking the concrete sides of the tanks with black slime and fouling the circular aluminum stairways that run up along the outside.

On Thursday, one tank was bubbling over. On Friday, two were.

On Thursday, nearly two weeks after the spills began, the chairman of the sewer district’s board of directors said he had not been to the site.

“From what I understand, sometime this week they put plywood between the barriers to try to prevent it from leaking through,” Chairman Thomas Connors said. “I know they’re pumping it back into the tanks. They have a (pumper) truck to pick up anything that seeps through. Beyond that, I don’t know what else we can possibly do.”

The wetlands that circle the treatment complex and separate it from the airport runways and the rail tracks and river are regulated at least in part by the North Andover Conservation Commission. Hogan said Jennifer Hughes, the town’s conservation administrator, visited the plant after the spills began.

Text Only | Photo Reprints

Port Pics
AP Video
Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow
Special Features