Cancer-causing PCBs found in culvert after Berlin oil leak

Published on Thursday, 5 October 2017 22:10
Written by Charles Paullin

Staff Writer

BERLIN - The site of a recent oil leak has tested positive for a contaminated chemical.

The oil leak near 432 Toll Gate Road, discovered last Friday after residents complained of a smell in the area, was also found to contain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) - a chemical banned in the U.S. in 1979 amid suggestions it could cause cancer and liver problems in people.

The leak was seeping into Belcher Brook, which leads to Silver Lake, and contained low to moderate levels of PCB, a Department of Energy and Environmental Protection spokesman said.

The oil was a combination of oil in the system for mechanical purposes and oil that can develop from condensation of natural gas, the spokesman, Dennis Schain, had previously said, adding that the leak was sealed Sunday night.

The leak stemmed from a punctured abandoned natural gas line, Schain said.

The Eversource gas line dates back to 1960 when it was last replaced and the utility stopped using it, Eversource spokeswoman Tricia Taskey Modifica said.

An excavation to uncover the leak damaged a culvert that is “definitely going to need to be repaired at a minimum,” Schain said Thursday.

Eversource has claimed responsibility for the leak and will be taking on the financial burden of remediating the leak, Schain said.

However, financial responsibility for repairing or replacing the culvert is yet to be determined.

Schain said excavating and digging around the leak caused the damage to the culvert.

Schain said it was possible the puncture was due to corrosion resulting from age, but that has not yet been identified as a specific cause.

“We’re waiting to find out the extent of the damage to help determine how to protect the road and proceed with remediation,” said interim Town Manager Jack Healy. “We’ll help with what needs to be done and is best suitable for residents,” he added, citing Eversource’s claimed responsibility for the leak.

“We’re going to work to continue to excavate the contaminated soil, to ensure it is removed and taken off site,” Schain said. The contractor working on removing the oil with booms and absorbent pads, Environmental Services Inc., had diverted the stream so that water is no longer flowing through the contaminated site area, he said.

Eversource and the Environmental Protection Agency responded to the scene on Monday to help if necessary. Healy said the town fire and health departments have been monitoring the site daily.

Schain was unable to give a definitive timeline on how long the remediation project would take, or how much the entire project would cost.

The town on Monday issued a release saying the portion of Toll Gate Road blocked off between Orchard Road and Saw Mill Drive will be closed to through traffic through mid-October.

Healy encouraged residents to visit the town website and newspapers for updates regarding road closures, trash pickup or any other changes to the area.

Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or

Posted in New Britain Herald, Berlin, New Britain on Thursday, 5 October 2017 22:10. Updated: Thursday, 5 October 2017 23:00.