HIGHLANDTOWN The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) was on the scene of an oil spill of unknown origin late Sunday night on Fife Coal Road, discovered when residents of the area noticed a petroleum odor in the air.
Highlandtown Fire Chief Tim Roush said residents contacted Ergon and Marathon oil companies after noticing the odor because both companies have pipelines in the area.
The companies sent representatives to the scene, and they discovered a reddish oil sheen in the creek flowing under Fife Coal Road, but an investigation proved it was not coming from their pipelines, according to Roush.
The oil appeared to be diesel fuel or heating oil, he said.
Although the source of the oil was not known last night, Roush said there had been two heating oil tanks sitting near a burned-out house on state Route 39 which intersects with Fife Coal Road earlier on Sunday but said, "They're not there now."
His department received the call about the spill about 8:30 or 9 p.m. and firefighters from Wellsville also assisted at the scene, investigating to determine how far the oil had moved downstream.
Firefighters placed oil-absorbing booms across the creek in two spots near the bridge on Fife Coal Road, and Roush said there was no evidence that the oil had made it further downstream, admitting, however, that the water is flowing so swiftly, it may have diluted the oil by the time it reached that far.
Roush notified the OEPA and the county LEPC and Emergency Management Agency, with OEPA representatives actually coming to the scene to assess the situation.
He explained that a spill constituting 25 gallons or more is a reportable amount and he estimated more than that had been spilled into the creek.
Roush said the OEPA will determine whether any remediation is needed, including excavation of contaminated soil, which he said would present problems itself due to the existence of oil pipelines and water lines in that area.
Another concern is that the creek flows into the former Wellsville reservoir, and although no longer used as a drinking water source, once past there, the water would enter the Ohio River, Roush said.
If oil was accidentally or deliberately dumped into the creek, the OEPA will be responsible for enforcing any cleanup requirements or penalties, according to Roush.
In addition to the fire departments, the Lisbon post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol was on the scene, assisting with traffic control.