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Schuylkill River Spill

Douglassville, Pennsylvania | 1972-Jun-22

Initial Notification: On June 22, 1972, 140,000-190,000 barrels of waste oil and sludge from Berks Associates oil reclamation plant escaped into the Schuylkill River at Douglassville, Pennsylvania. The release resulted from heavy rains and flooding of the entire lagoon complex. Twelve to eighteen inches of rainfall from Hurricane Agnes on June 21-22 raised the Schuylkill River 20 feet over its banks and flooded the waste oil lagoons. Agnes proved to be the worst natural disaster in the U.S. at the time. Two billion dollars in damage and 100 fatalities were attributed to the storm. The spilled oil was not sighted until June 23, due to the more pressing concerns of evacuation and property damage. U.S. Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency personnel conducted an overflight of the area to assess the magnitude of the flood damage. Black oil and several hundred drums containing hazardous chemicals were spread over much of the countryside along the Schuylkill River. The Regional Response Team (RRT) was assembled and an on-scene coordinator was assigned by the EPA. The National Contingency Plan revolving fund was opened under the "Act of God" provision. On June 28, the Coast Guard National Strike Force and personnel from the Division of Oil and Hazardous Materials (DOHM) were called. The rains stopped on June 30. The top priorities at this point were to reduce the amount of oil leaching from the lagoons into the river and to protect the water intakes of downstream cities. On July 4, three main contractors, Underwater Technics, Clean Water, and New England Pollution Control were tasked with cleaning up a 16 mile stretch of the Schuylkill River. The spill area became a testing ground for clean-up methods. The bulk of the cleanup was completed by early August. By the conclusion of operations on September 30, the clean-up bill totaled $4.5 million. USCG district 1. Keyword: Boom, filter fence, sorbent granules, National Strike Force (NSF), manual removal..

Incident Details
Products of concern:Waste oil and sludge
Total amount at risk of spill: 7,980,000 gallons
Latitude (approximate): 40° 15.00′ North
Longitude (approximate): 75° 38.00′ West