TURNERS FALLS, Mass. (WWLP) – Several lawmakers are calling on FirstLight Power to do a full review of their facility following oil leaks over the last three winters.
State Senator Jo Comerford, State Rep. Susannah Whipps and State Rep. Natalie Blais released a joint statement Wednesday asking FirstLight Power to work to prevent any future oil leaks.
On March 9, FirstLight Power received a notification of an oil sheen below the Turners Falls Dam in the Connecticut River. After further review along with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), crews identified a leak of less than a gallon of oil.
The MassDEP has visited the site several times since the initial report. At their most recent inspection, no oil sheen was detected outside the immediate contaminated area. A Notice of Responsibility was issued to FirstLight.
This incident comes one year after a 300-gallon leak at the Turners Falls facility.
“Any release of oil to the river is unacceptable, and FirstLight takes full responsibility for ensuring our operations do not result in any further release. We recognize that this recent release follows a prior release last year. Following that event last year, we instituted numerous solutions to prevent future releases at every piston on each bascule gate, including implementing work on areas of the facility that had never shown any evidence of leakage to ensure we would be ahead of any further issues,” said FirstLight Power Spokesperson Claire Belanger.
“Unfortunately, we did not succeed, and we take responsibility for this. FirstLight prides ourselves on being a company that delivers environmentally beneficial energy products to the region and being responsible stewards of the river ecosystems in which our facilities operate. We are committed to implementing a permanent solution to ensure these conditions do not recur, and we are taking immediate action to undertake that work as soon as we can,” said Belanger.
FirstLight said they remain committed to working with MassDEP to address any issues. FirstLight told 22News they will also be implementing several things to mitigate the issue. They have installed new absorbent booms around each piston, tightened up packing on the pistons, and secured an oil boom in the water to capture any sheen.
They also said a crew checks the area and any absorbent materials at least three times a week to ensure there are no major issues. Belanger said a more significant overhaul of the facility is already underway to address the root cause of these incidents.