NEW PHILADELPHIA — A sticky white substance used in water treatment that was poured into a storm drain at a Southside warehouse flowed through a sewer pipe into the Tuscarawas River.
Next-door neighbor Bradley Schilling reported the spill at Hawkins Water Treatment to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday.
Schilling said he initially saw the liquid being dumped into a storm drain at Hawkins, 1161 Commercial Ave. SE, on Monday. He said he was not concerned at that time.
"I just thought, 'They're dumping that in a storm water drain, but they're a water treatment place,'" Schilling said. "They obviously know what they're doing. They're responsible people who should be doing the right thing, right?"
Ohio EPA responds to incident
Ohio EPA Emergency Response was on the scene Tuesday afternoon overseeing work by the environmental contractors who were hired by Hawkins Water Treatment to ensure the spill is contained and removed, according to Ohio EPA spokesman Anthony Chenault.
"Currently, the contractor is using vacuum trucks to remove the material, which is commonly described as a flocculant (used for removing suspended solids in wastewater)," Chenault told The Times-Reporter by email. "The company does not have a permit to discharge directly into the storm sewer."
An investigation is ongoing, Chenault said.
Material said to be 'inert and nonhazardous'
New Philadelphia Assistant Fire Chief Matt Tharp and Alex McCarthy, director of the Tuscarawas County Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency also visited the site of the spill at midday Tuesday, after being contacted by The Times-Reporter.
Tharp spoke with a Hawkins representative over the phone at the scene. Tharp said he was told the material is inert and nonhazardous. He said the company representative was trying to get a vacuum truck to remove the material from the storm sewer. Tharp said the employees had been washing out a tank containing the substance because they thought it was empty. They began trying to get a vacuum truck to remove the white foamy material from the storm sewer after realizing there was more in the tank than they initially believed.
Tharp said there was not enough of the material in the river to use a boom to collect it. He noted the compound was sinking to the bottom of the river. He said there was no need for firefighters to attempt to remove the substance because it is nonhazardous.
McCarthy said the goal of the county's hazardous material team is to contain the spill, which is the company's responsibility.
A Hawkins staff member at the Commercial Avenue warehouse said he was not permitted to speak with the news media. He referred a reporter to the legal department of the company. Times-Reporter attempts to contact the Hawkins Water Treatment legal department were unsuccessful.
Schilling had his own question for the company: "How long have they been doing this? I caught them doing it this one time."
Hawkins Water Treatment supplies products for municipal water treatment, municipal wastewater treatment, industrial wastewater treatment and agricultural water treatment.
Hawkins, based in Roseville, Minn., announced the opening of its branch office in New Philadelphia in May 2020.
This article originally appeared on The Times-Reporter: Neighbor reports chemical discharge into river in New Philadelphia