BARBERTON, Ohio — Cleanup efforts have been underway since Wednesday, July 6, after an oil spill in the Tuscarawas River, a news release from the City of Barberton said.
It happened around 1:30 p.m. when the Barberton fire Department received a call for an oil or chemical spill in the river, which was found south of the Snyder Avenue crossing of the Summit Metro Trail.
Booms were placed in the river to contain the spill, the release said. Additionally, Barberton Mayor William Judge said in a Facebook video, that all animals affected by the spill were taken to wildlife rescue sanctuaries to be "cleaned and treated."
Judge said the City of Barberton was working with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), The Cleveland Metroparks and the Ohio EPA, which is leading the investigation.
“I just want to make it clear that our water supply has not been impacted and won’t be impacted, it’s north of the city," Judge told 3News on Tuesday. "There is no loss of human life, animals and wildlife that have been affected are being addressed and taken care of."
Judge also said that he is aware citizens want to help, but shared the following message: "Leave this to the professionals and let them assess the situation and continue with the investigation, and then we can make the best decisions moving forward."
The mayor encouraged anyone with questions to reach out to his office, saying his department is only interested in relaying "the facts" to the public.
3News reached out to the ODNR, who said they have been working cooperatively with the EPA to respond to the spill in Barberton, sharing that the ODNR is focused on monitoring and rescuing impacted wildlife, while the EPA is focused on containment and clean up of the oil.
ODNR told 3News they have rescued more than 60 Canada Geese and a mallard duck, which were covered in oil and transferred to wildlife rehabilitators for treatment. Unfortunately, the ODNR said a few geese, in the single digits, have died as a result of the oil, though they did not have an exact number.
45 of those geese initially went to the Lake Erie Nature & Science Center on Friday. Ultimately, 26 stayed at the center, while others were transferred to a different center due to the sheer number of birds in need of care.
"Doing a small amount of birds that are small are easy, but we never had an impact like this before here at the center," said Tim Jasinski, a wildlife rehabilitation specialist at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center. "We specialize in water foul, but we've never had this big of an oil spill before."
Jasinski said after the geese arrived Friday morning, many of them soaked in oil. Their team worked to stabilize them, giving them fluids to prevent oil from getting into their systems. On Saturday and Sunday, the geese were cleaned, a process that takes about 20-30 minutes per bird.
"We had to actually use toothbrushes and q-tips to clean the oil around their eye lids and around their face, just being really really delicate and careful, but we got everything off and they look awesome," he said.
Jasinski said the geese are still resting and recovering, but the hope is to release them back into the wild soon in a new location. Additionally, Jasinksi said the Center takes in injured animals from the public at no charge.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provided 3News with the following statement:
"Ohio EPA was contacted on Thursday, July 5, about an oily sheen on the Tuscarawas River near Wolf Creek. An environmental contractor began cleanup of the material on Thursday and that work is ongoing.
"Ohio EPA worked with the Barberton Fire Department to contain and determine the source of the oil. The responsible company is Noble Oil Services, which was transferring oil from a tanker truck to a railcar at a property on Snyder Avenue. Oil spilled into a storm sewer that drained to the river. Noble Oil hired contractors to install additional containment and remove oil from the river.
"The reservoir that supplies Barberton's public drinking water is upstream from the spill and should not be impacted by this incident. The public drinking water continues to be safe to drink."
The Ohio EPA added that the focus currently is on the clean up, and "Notices of violation and any other enforcement actions are generally determined at a later date."
The investigation is ongoing. Stick with 3News for updates on this story as they become available.
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