EPA Finds Source of Oil Slick on Potomac River

EPA Finds Source of Oil Slick on Potomac River

WSSC reports no danger to area drinking water.

The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday, Dec. 5, named the NRG Dickerson Power Plant as the source of the oily substance seen on the Potomac River.

“It was determined from samples taken of the sheen on the river, looking for a fingerprint [of the substance],” Terri A. White, of the EPA said. “The samples matched that of the samples from NRG.”

U.S. Coast Guard laboratory analysis of the samples identified the product as lubricating oil, the EPA reported in a press release.

The mysterious oil plume floated down the Potomac River last week, baffling authorities and environmental activists and prompting the Potomac Riverkeeper Network to offer a $1,000 reward for information leading to its source.

Just one day later, on Dec. 2, the group increased the reward amount to $1,500.

“We’d sure like to know who did this,” Jeff Kelble, president of Riverkeeper, a nonprofit environmental watchdog group, said. “Six million people drink out of this river system.”

Kelble said the oil was first observed on Sunday, Nov. 27.

“It looked brown and gunky up close and looks like a rainbow from above,” he said. “I understand it was a petroleum product [that was] either leaked or drained or dumped [into the river].”

Several communities draw water from the Potomac in the area of the slick, including the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, which provides drinking water to Montgomery and Prince Georges counties. WSSC has a water filtration plant on River Road west of Potomac and draws water from the river there.

Lyn Riggins, a spokesperson for WSSC, said they were taking precautions including placing booms in front of the intake pipes and testing the water more frequently.

“Booms in front of the intake divert [the oil] from entering,” she said. “There is no issue with the water drinking quality, it’s a situation and everyone is watching it.”

In a Dec. 5 press release, WSSC continues to assure the public that the oil leak has no effect on area drinking water.

“To date, the oily substance has never been observed at or near the WSSC’s Potomac River intake. WSSC’s Potomac plant continues to operate at full capacity and the Commission has not experienced any adverse impact to its drinking water quality,” the press release stated.