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Fuel Spills Into Missisquoi River In Swanton; Source Unknown

Crews have contained a fuel oil spill in the Missisquoi River near Depot Street in Swanton, authorities say.

Swanton Police Chief Leonard Stell said the spill has been contained since approximately 1 p.m. this afternoon, when the Swanton Fire Department responded with cleanup "booms" - floating lines that stretch across the surface of the water and prevent oil and other surface pollution from passing through.

“Right now it’s a monitoring process because we don’t know where the source is,” Stell said Saturday at about 9:30 p.m.

Stell said it would be "almost impossible to estimate gallons lost" because of the way oil spreads out on water. Since the exact source is unknown, it may not be possible to determine how much fuel left the source container.

He said the source is likely an "abandoned underground storage tank" of some sort, and the leak is something similar fuel oil or diesel fuel.

"Definitely not regular gasoline," Stell said of the pollutant. "It's either fuel oil, diesel fuel, something in that consistency."

Stell authorities believe quick action by the fire department prevented much of the spill from flowing down river, and that said the spill is not a threat to public safety.

“There is no public safety threat because diesel fuel, home heating fuel – it doesn’t spontaneously combust,” he said.

Stell said that the Agency of Natural Resources "is basically in charge" on the scene.

Mark Bosma, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety’s Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said the division was contacted but that the state hazmat team had not been requested. Bosma said the state hazmat team is providing technical assistance to crews handling the spill.

“It’s in ANR’s hands now, along with the contractors," said Swanton Chief Stell. "It’s being monitored. They’re working on how to clean it up now.”

Update 9:45 p.m. This story was updated to reflect information from Swanton Police Chief Leonard Stell.

Correction 9:45 p.m. An earlier version of this story misidentified the fuel spilled. It was not gasoline.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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