Oil spill sparks outrage from Colt Park visitor

By Kristen Ray
Posted 8/9/19

At first, he did not think much of, the splotches of stains that coated the pavement. But as Bill Hunt kept walking with his dog through Colt State Park last Friday afternoon, the splotches were …

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Oil spill sparks outrage from Colt Park visitor

Posted

At first, he did not think much of, the splotches of stains that coated the pavement. But as Bill Hunt kept walking with his dog through Colt State Park last Friday afternoon, the splotches were turning into streams and, suddenly, it hit him: this was oil from a commercial tractor, the evidence now stretching all the way from Harborview Avenue, across the pedestrian bridge and over to Coggeshall Farm Road.

It was an alarming sight for Mr. Hunt, who immediately called the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s (DEM) emergency line. He then posted on the Around Town Bristol Facebook page, where he was shocked to find that commenters — suggesting that it was likely hydraulic oil that had been used — were not sharing in his outrage. Whether or not it was biodegradable was beside the point; as a six-year veteran of the Warren Harbor Commission and representative to the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, Mr. Hunt knew that any kind of oil in such an excessive amount could pose a threat to the environment.

“Little tiny drops can have a big impact, and that was more than just a few tiny drops,” he said.

There were other causes for concern as well; with Colt State Park being a popular picnic and family gathering destination, visitors could run the risk of accidentally ingesting the oil or having it stain their clothes if it were additionally coated in the grass. In a more extreme case, should the oil seep into the Mill Gut — a protected estuary in the center of the park — and, consequentially, alter its ecosystem, an entire industry could be affected, wreaking havoc for quahoggers during their fishing season late in the year.

“There’s a lot of implications — not just environmentally, but economically as well,” said Mr. Hunt.

Though DEM spokeswoman Gail Mastrati stated that their investigation revealed that no waterways or drains were ultimately impacted as a result of what was determined to be a diesel oil spill, officials nevertheless contacted the landscape contractor to bring attention to the incident. As far as Mr. Hunt is concerned, there was no reason why the tractor’s operator did not stop and try to first resolve the problem immediately, instead of simply leaking it all over and staining the asphalt.

“It’s unnecessary, it’s complete negligence,” he said.

By raising awareness of the issue, however, Mr. Hunt hopes to at least start a conversation and stress the importance of being more responsible when caring for the state’s “jewel of a park.”

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