ELKINS, W.Va. – On April 22, a concerned citizen notified an Elkins city official about what appeared to be an oily film on top of the Tygart Valley River 500 feet upstream from where the city’s water intake is for their drinking supply. After an investigation, it was decided that the diesel fuel was illegally dumped into a storm drain on 15th street and came out of a waterway on 11th street that fed it directly into the Tygart Valley River.
“Please take that somewhere to be recycled or disposed of properly, please don’t dump it out on the ground, or in a storm drain or a ditch, anywhere that it could end up in a river or end up somewhere that could be detrimental to the drinking water, the animals, or plant life,” said Wesley Lambert, Chief Operator and Public Water System Manager for the City of Elkins.
An on the scene West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) official identified the substance as diesel fuel. It was approximated that 5 gallons of the fuel had been illegally dumped.
Since there was no eye witness to the dumping of the fuel, or video surveillance, there is no lead as to who is responsible for dumping the diesel fuel.
The fuel was close to the water intake for the Elkins drinking water, but the intakes are 11 feet underground. Since oil tends to rise to the top, it’s unlikely the fuel ever got close to the intake to contaminate the towns drinking water.
“Fortunately, this particular spill didn’t make it into the water treatment plant, or the drinking water distribution system itself, but had it have made it in there, it could have been very detrimental,” said Lambert.
To prevent environmental catastrophes, there are legal options to disposing of hazardous material like diesel fuel.
“Storing something like diesel fuel and oil in drums, make sure that it is filled full of saw dust, saw dust soaks it up, therefore it makes it easier to dispose of,” said Clark Martin, Chairman of Randolph County Solid Waste Authority.
The next step is to contact a sanitation department that deals with hazardous materials or reach out to the WVDEP.