HMN-Hazmat crews had to chop through ice to deploy more containment boom after an unknown amount of diesel fuel spilled into the lake. (NJ Herald)
JEFFERSON — An unknown amount of diesel fuel began flowing into Lake Hopatcong on Sunday and state and Morris County hazmat crews were still on the scene Monday chopping through ice to install additional containment booms.
The spill was reported by a citizen who saw and smelled the diesel on Sunday to Morris County which responded and called in the Department of Environmental Protection’s emergency spill response team.
On Monday, Jefferson police officers at the scene said the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office had assumed authority of the investigation. A spokesman for the prosecutor confirmed the recovery of the spilled diesel fuel was being handled by the county and state.
At mid-day Monday, booms were already in the water in the small cove to the east of Flash Marina and where a small stream was apparently carrying the spilled diesel into the lake.
A large pile of plastic trash bags sat beside Prospect Point Road which apparently contained absorbent rags which are used to sop up chemical or fuel spills from the water.
At the same time, men in cold-water immersion suits worked from a small aluminum skiff punching a path through the ice on the lake to install a second yellow containment boom.
Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the DEP said the state response team was notified of the spill through the spill hotline at 11:19 a.m. Sunday by a resident.
He said Valiant Contracting, which has a facility up the hillside from Prospect Point Road and overlooking the stream, on Monday reported it had a diesel spill “a couple of weeks ago,” and said they did a surface clean-up of their yard.
The company has a fleet of tractor-trailers which haul trash.
Hajna said it appears the company believed they got the spill contained and did not report it to authorities. He said there was no indication of how much diesel fuel spilled or how the spill occurred.
Peter DiGennaro, a spokesman for the Morris County Prosecutor wrote in an e-mail: “It is an open investigation, so whether criminal charges are pressed or not will be decided as a result of the investigation.”
He would also not comment on the connection to Valiant “because of the ongoing investigation.”
Lou Tarascio lives on Mohawk Trail and his back yard faces the area where the diesel fuel flowed into the lake.
He said he caught whiffs of diesel fuel smell Saturday but it really depended on the direction of the wind.
“I didn’t think much about it then, but yesterday (Sunday) I saw all the response people there,” he explained.
He said the contractor hired by the state worked until early Monday morning and “I’ve been watching them chopping ice in that boat all day. I expect they’ll be there into the wee hours again.”
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