Courtesy Patrick Ragaz
A hydraulic fluid spill from an excavator at a road maintenance construction site near Indian Way School led to an intervention by the Kahnawake Environment Protection Office (KEPO).
The main contaminant in the Tuesday, June 14 spill involved oil.
“In the process of lifting up the gravel and digging it up, the hydraulic lines broke, leaking hydraulic fluid onto one of the open areas of the road,” said Ahonwakerane Stacey, KEPO’s environmental technician, who was on-site to monitor and assess the clean-up of the spill.
Construction work was halted immediately. The remediation company which would complete the on-site clean-up, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake’s (MCK) Public Works Unit, and the construction company responsible for the equipment, were notified.
The incident occurred in the morning, with the remediation coming on-site at around 12:15 p.m., for a clean-up effort that lasted approximately half an hour, according to Stacey.
Following the hydraulic line burst, workers put an absorbing material on the spill and blocked off the contaminated area, which included soil and paved road.
“When I arrived on scene, all I did was evaluate the area and just waited for the company to come in to clean up the site,” said Stacey.
When a spill occurs, it seeps into the soil and can pollute a larger surface area; therefore, the removal entails digging out the area surrounding the spill, according to KEPO protocol.
“I talked with the owner of the company, and he estimated that it was roughly four to five times the amount of material that was removed from the site,” said Stacey.
Once the soil and other materials were removed, Stacey re-inspected the hole and spoke to a remediation company official executing the clean-up, who both determined the contamination was satisfactorily removed.
KEPO does not test the soil for small level contaminations. Instead, they rely on visual indicators such as darker wet soil that can indicate where the liquid from the spill spread to.
“Once you see the visual contaminants gone, and it’s pretty much safe to say that it’s good to go,” said Stacey.
On the same day following the evaluation, the hole was filled, and construction to fix the cracked paved road near the school resumed for the MCK-funded road project.
“It wasn’t a major issue. It was contained. It was a rather pretty simple clean-up,” said Stacey.
An update on where the contaminated soil was dropped off was not available from KEPO.
The department will not undertake a soil sample to determine the contamination in the area, according to Patrick Ragaz, general manager of field science at KEPO.
“In this case, it’s a fairly limited spill, and it was addressed straight away. So we don’t believe there’s a need for that sampling,” said Ragaz.
Instead, excavation is the precautionary approach, which is handled by an external remediation company.
“We contacted the external contractor who comes in and ensures that the impacted material has been removed,” Ragaz noted.
He further told The Eastern Door that the spill will not cause a negative environmental impact.
“Because it was cleaned up right away and removed from the site, it wouldn’t be any lasting impact,” said Ragaz.
Lynn Jacobs, director of environment protection at KEPO, confirmed the department’s protocol for handling the spill.
“We ensure that the clean-up was completed and that the environment is safe, and there were no other impacts to be addressed,” she said.
While Wednesday’s one-day road maintenance project on Indian Way Road between McGregor’s Farm and Indian Way School occurred “due to unforeseen circumstances,” according to the MCK public service announcement, the project is still ongoing and partial road closures continue.