Chemical spill clean-up in Shelton ongoing

November 15, 2017

SHELTON — City residents should expect the intersection of Poplar Drive and Suren Lane — the area of a chemical spill earlier this month — to be reopened around Thanksgiving, a United Illuminating official said.

On Nov. 5, officers responded to the intersection of Poplar Drive and Suren Lane around 6 a.m. for a report of a motor vehicle that fled the scene of a nearby accident.

Police said the responding officers noticed a telephone pole with a transformer down across Poplar Drive. Officers also noticed a fire hydrant nearby that they said appeared to be hit.

The transformer, according to police, contained PCBs — polychlorinated biphenyls, potential cancer-causing chemicals.

Mike Davidson, who said he and his wife Melissa Davidson live around the corner from the spill on Suren Lane and are concerned.

“We would like to know about the impact on people and pets in the area of the toxic materials on our streets and lawns,” Davidson said.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry — a federal public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — said those who are concerned with exposure to PCBs can be tested.

“Most people normally have low levels of PCBs in their body because nearly everyone has been environmentally exposed to PCBs,” said the ATSDR website. “The tests can show if your PCB levels are elevated.”

Davidson said he is worried that no one in the area has received much information.

“When the accident first occurred, there were workers there 24/7, working through the night to clean up the spill,” Davidson said Monday. “They are still there, over a week later.”

Agencies on scene

Ed Crowder, a UI spokesman, said the transformers convert the distribution voltage in the wires for household usage.

“The older types of transformers have an oil that contains PCBs,” Crowder said. “Every now and then if someone, say, hits one with their car, we’ll come check it out.”

On Nov. 10, police issued a press release that said they were looking for an early-2000 model Jeep Liberty that fled the scene of an accident that brought down the pole and the transformer.

“UI was called to the scene, and testing confirmed the transformer contained PCBs,” Crowder said.

Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has been on scene since the incident was reported, according to Lori Saliby, a DEEP supervising environmental analyst.

Saliby said roughly 30 gallons of material from the transformer spilled onto the roadway. Of those 30 gallons, there was some PCB material.

She said the DEEP will remain on site until the work is complete.

For those residents concerned about the transformers near their houses and about whether this could happen near them, Saliby said worrying isn’t necessary.

“The majority of them (the transformers on telephone poles) are not the type that would have PCBs,” Saliby said. “This was kind of an outlier.”