On Thursday, March 9th, FirstLight Power received notice of an observed small oil sheen below the Turners Falls Dam. We immediately deployed our team to inspect the area and establish and implement solutions to address the issue, at all times in coordination with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). The team onsite identified two hydraulic pistons that had saturated absorbent booms. Based on the size of the sheen and the fact that our system showed no indication of measurable volume loss, our preliminary estimates suggest the leak was likely less than one gallon.
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.
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.
We also remain committed to working hand in hand with MassDEP to address the current condition, just as we have at every step of the way. We appreciate the coordination of MassDEP and local officials and their efforts to assist with the cleanup activities underway. We will continue to provide regular communication to our local elected officials and news sources as we have since the issue began.
Further detailed information regarding FirstLight’s activities is provided below:
- To mitigate the issue, we have installed new absorbent booms around each piston, tightened up packing on the pistons to inhibit further leaks, and secured an oil boom in the water to capture any sheen and act as a preventative measure. In addition, our team observes the area and the absorbent material at least three times a week, often more, to ensure our efforts are effective and no material needs to be tightened or replaced. Once river conditions render it safe for our team to closely inspect the pistons, we will identify the root cause and design and implement a permanent solution.
- We have already begun efforts to undertake a more significant overhaul of the facility to ensure that we address the root cause looking ahead. Engineering and design work will begin immediately, and we will endeavor to commence the remedial work as soon as is feasible. We will update officials once the engineering and design are complete and we have a schedule for implementation.