A mysterious spill has led to oil pooling along the banks of the Mohawk River near the site of the proposed Mohawk Harbor development.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation responded to reports of oil on the water but has not yet determined its source. Wherever it came from, there’s no more oil flowing into the water, DEC officials said.
“There is no indication of an ongoing source of oil entering the river,” spokesman Tom Mailey said in a statement.
The oil stretched across the river Monday night, according to a member of the Union College crew team. The team rowed through the oil during practice and later reported it to DEC.
On Tuesday morning, a DEC spills team went to the scene and found the oil pooling downstream of the College Creek Outfall, Mailey said. DEC would make no public statement about the source of the oil.
Nearby, a construction crew was preparing the land for a harbor, a hotel and eventually a casino. Developer David Buicko, CEO of the Galesi Group, said he was certain the oil had nothing to do with construction.
“It’s not generated from our site,” he said, adding that his workers met the DEC team and determined the oil wasn’t coming from the site.
“I’m glad it wasn’t us,” Buicko said.
DEC has monitored the site in the past, before it was owned by Galesi Group, because of spills into the river. It ordered wells dug on the site in the 1990s and used them to remove hydrocarbons and test groundwater for further contaminants. But that didn’t clean up the site.
In paperwork filed during the discussion over locating a casino and other development there, DEC said some of the groundwater was contaminated with solvents. The agency developed a cleanup plan, which Galesi has been following.
Union College geology professor John Garver recalled those reports when he heard the crew team had encountered oil near the site.
“So this is one of the concerns when they start digging stuff up,” he said.
Garver, whose research focuses on the river, investigated and called the DEC spills hotline.
“It’s serious,” he said, explaining that the amount of oil on the river posed a great threat to the environment. “Anytime there’s oil on the river, it’s serious.”
But DEC termed the spill a “small sheen” of oil that will only need monitoring for now.
“DEC will continue to monitor the situation and take any actions necessary in the future,” Mailey said.
The spill seemed unusual to the crew team. Member Matt Worthington said he’d never seen such a situation in his four years on the team.
It took his boat 20 to 30 seconds to row through the oil Monday night, he said, and the team washed down the boat afterward.
They rowed Saturday from 10 to 11 a.m. and did not see any oil, he said. It was there during their next row, from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. Monday.
“We were going at a rather slow pace,” he said. “We encountered a smell, and then we were rowing through it.”