Cleanup efforts in University City are still underway following an oil spill in the Schuylkill River on Monday. While much of the oil has been removed from the river, land cleanup is projected to continue throughout the week.
The spill occurred near the Chestnut Street Bridge at a facility owned by telecommunications firm CenturyLink, located at 2400 Market Street. Following a malfunction in an emergency generator, a gas tank in the facility leaked 4,200 gallons of heating oil, of which about 250 gallons spilled into the Schuylkill River and onto the river’s banks, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a press release.
Bystanders in the area recalled seeing large amounts of what looked like “red dye” in the river and as far south as Chestnut Street .
At present, University City traffic over the Schuylkill is unaffected by ongoing cleanup efforts, although part of the Schuylkill Banks Trail has been closed due to cleanup activities. A Philadelphia police officer stationed at Chestnut Street who spoke on condition of anonymity said that he did not know when the trail would reopen. Behind him was a long string of yellow barricade tape along the river trail.
At the time of publication, the Division of Public Safety said that the spill did not pose a threat to students. “At this time, DPS is not aware of any specific concerns for students, but will monitor and alert should any arise,” DPS wrote in an email.
Federal and local investigators are still determining exactly how the oil got into the Schuylkill River, including what path the oil followed after entering the water. Nearly a dozen agencies have been brought in to monitor the situation, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Philadelphia Water Department.
CenturyLink has also hired a private environmental response contractor, Miller Environmental Group Inc., to assist in the cleanup, including removing oil from the river with vacuum trucks and conducting tests on snow and soil samples collected at the scene of the spill.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, who is also monitoring cleanup efforts, expects that the water portion of the cleanup response will be completed by the end of this week, DEP Community Relations Coordinator Virginia Cain said Tuesday in a press release.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Water Department has been handling numerous inquiries from the public about the safety of local water supplies following the spill.
“The oil spill on the #Schuylkill occurred downstream of our drinking water intakes. This means no impact to drinking water quality,” the department posted Monday on Twitter.
The DEP has also reported that no fish were killed during the oil spill.
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