Firefighters rush to stop fuel spill
By NOELLE FRAMPTON
Norwalk Hour Staff Writer
NORWALK — The rainbow-colored sheen on a South Norwalk marina water's surface Tuesday signaled bad news: An oily substance was flowing into the harbor through an 8-feet-diameter city outflow pipe.
About 20 to 25 gallons of what appeared to be diesel fuel had crept into Norwalk Harbor by the time firefighters put absorbent booms around the opening in late morning, the state Department of Environmental Protection reported.
The booms stopped most of the fuel, but not all, from seeping out, said Norwalk Fire Department Capt. Edward Prescott.
This isn't the first time a harmful substance escaped through that pipe, located on the property of Total Marine, 160 Water St., which carries storm runoff from the city's storm drains. Stinking sewage, floating garbage, leaves and an abundance of street sand have all flowed into the marina, said John and Tom Caruso, marina co-owners.
The father and son have owned the full-service marina since 1999, and said unwanted debris has been an ongoing problem.
"It's a very poorly-designed system," Tom Caruso said. "There's ... no method of filtering out contaminants. It just comes out that pipe. I've got people with million-dollar boats here, paying a fortune to keep them here. It's a nuisance. What they need is a cleanable catch basin upstream of the pipe."
About a week ago, raw sewage dumped out and reeked so badly that people near the dock abandoned ship, so to speak, the Carusos said, adding that a screening system installed by the city last year wasn't enough.
City Mayor Richard Moccia and Public Works Director Hal Alvord could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
City firefighters tried, with DPW employees and a DEP emergency response team, to track the fuel to its source. Once found, whoever is responsible will be required to act immediately to curb the outflow, said DEP spokesman Dennis Schain.
Schain said the DEP heard about the spill around 10 a.m.
Prescott said firefighters walked all of the storm drains between Water and Merritt streets and narrowed the source's location to the area of Larsen Street and Woodward Avenue.
"We traced it back to that location, going through manholes. They're still trying to pinpoint it. Somehow it got into the storm drain system. Whether accidental or with the heavy rains we had, or a small leak ... it's still under investigation. It could have been anything. You have to be sure before you say anything ... before you go and accuse someone."
Prescott said he's seen both intentional and accidental spills like this in the past.
More fuel could leak out before it's all over.
"It's possible when the tide goes back out, if there's more fuel in the piping, that it could get into the harbor," Schain said at about 4:45 p.m. "So we're working to find the source. It will not cause significant environmental damage ... but it's unfortunate when something like this happens. You hate to see any contaminant get into the environment."
Tuesday's late low tide was at 1:43 p.m., changing to high tide by 7:55 p.m. and falling low again at 2:35 a.m. Wednesday.
Noelle Frampton covers police and courts. She can be reached at (203) 354-1006 or firstname.lastname@example.org.