Cleanup Under Way in Bronx River Heating Oil Spill
Hundreds of gallons of no. 4 heating oil spilled into the Bronx River from a White Plains, NY apartment building beginning on Wednesday, and cleanup crews are working to contain the spill and remove the oil from the river. A jogger first reported an unusual odor near the river to police on Wednesday morning, and local authorities later traced the source of the strong-smelling black oil to an apartment building on South Lexington Ave. in White Plains, the New York Post reported.
No. 4 heating oil, also known as residual fuel oil, is a dirtier and cheaper heating fuel than yellow-colored and cleaner-burning no. 2 heating oil used by residential consumers. Despite its much higher emissions, no. 4 heating oil (and similar no. 6 oil) is used by many apartment buildings and other commercial structures because of its lower cost. In an effort to improve air quality, New York City is working toward phasing out nos. 4 and 6 oils in favor of no. 2 heating oil and other cleaner heating fuels.
The oil leaked from the apartment building, across an off ramp from the Bronx River Parkway, and into storm drains that fed into the river. Authorities reported that the leak continued until about 12:30 pm on Wednesday. According to local news site lohud.com, “The northbound Main Street exit ramp off the Bronx River Parkway in White Plains is being intermittently opened and closed for traffic during the cleanup.” Maureen Wren, a spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Environmental Protection told reporters that “three to four miles of affected shoreline” would need to be scrubbed of oil. The cleanup effort could take weeks to complete. So far, several ducks and geese have been found covered in oil, and a few dead fish have washed up on the banks of the river.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the Bronx River has a history of pollution problems, and only showed signs of recovery in the last few years, as fish and waterfowl returned to the waterway. With words that echoed statements made by federal government officials in reference to the BP crude oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino assured that the responsible party (presumably the owners of the leaking apartment building) would pay for remediation: “The taxpayers are not paying for this cleanup.”