More oil leaks into Swiftwater Creek

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POCONO TOWNSHIP, MONROE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Last week Eyewitness News heard from Monroe County residents concerned about a large oil spill in Swiftwater Creek.

Now a second round of heavy rain showed the problem has not gone away. The oil leak was first detected when the area was hit with flash flooding last week. When we got heavy rain yesterday, the oil was back.

Last Tuesday, the DEP responded to an oil spill in Swiftwater Creek, where neighbors reported smelling the fumes and feeling ill.

“Heating oil contains a component called benzene. Benzene, even in small amounts can cause respiratory issues, headaches, nausea and over time prolonged exposure. It’s a carcinogen. Nobody knows how much was spilled,” Lower Swiftwater Road resident Dr. Ashley Woodrow said.

“Anything that goes into this creek goes into our well,” Lower Swiftwater Road resident Julia Rettle said.

DEP officials said the leak was caused during excavation work on a waterline at Swiftwater Elementary. A 10,000 gallon in-ground heating oil tank was damaged.

The Pocono Mountain School District says it has not been used since 2004, but it had oil inside of it.
Heavy rains flushed that oil into the creek.

Local emergency management set up booms to catch the oil and the school district said the leak was stopped. But Wednesday brought more rain, and more oil down the stream to Sanofi Pasteur.

“About 8:24 yesterday, we have received reports from Sanofi’s environmental, environmental monitoring stations that had large fuel spills was released from their old effluent pipe,” Pocono Township EMA Coordinator Jerrod Belvin said.

The old effluent pipe runs from the school district’s Swiftwater campus down to the creek on Sanofi Pasteur’s property, according to Belvin. The pipe was thought to have been plugged off.

“But yesterday it was flowing very red again and then at about 11:00 again, there was a third dump of fuel,” Belvin said.

The DEP says this was residual oil from the spill last week, that was flushed out by the rain. The school district tells Eyewitness News the tank was emptied last Thursday.

A spokesperson for the DEP says the DEP and school district’s contractor, M.E.A. Associates, are monitoring the situation and continuing to clean up the oil.

Belvin says a lot has already gone down stream due to flash flooding conditions on Wednesday, and emergency management has a big problem on their hands especially if there are more leaks they haven’t found.

“We are concerned if there is more rains and we’ve had unprecedented rains, you know these past two storms, and it’s just a safety hazard at this point,” Belvin said.

Belvin says they’re working with county emergency management, the DEP and Sanofi is helping with environmental monitoring on the creek. He says they need to find the drain boxes up the hill and if the oil is residual then those tanks need to be evacuated.

He also says people who live along the creek should contact the township or DEP right away if they notice a petroleum smell coming off their water, or if their plants start dying.

Pocono Mountain School District has a water buffalo by the baseball field for residents of Lower Swiftwater Road and Sky Haven who are concerned about their drinking water.

The district can connect people with M.E.A if they have issues with well water.

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