Omya chemical spill in Rutland County

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(Host) A chemical spill at an Omya industrial plant in Rutland County has some neighbors worried about the safety of their water supply. But a town official says he’s been assured that the local water supply is safe. VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) The Omya plant in Florence crushes tons of marble ore for use as paint pigment and other products. The raw material is treated with chemicals to kill mold and bacteria.

On Wednesday, Florence residents were notified that Omya had spilled a chemical pesticide into an adjacent quarry.

Bill Niles lives about a quarter of mile from the plant.

(Niles) “We just can’t keep having these spills all the time. They say it don’t affect our ground water. But it’s got to affect the ground water.”

(Dillon) The spill happened late Monday afternoon. Plant manager Steven Thompson says a pipe fitting was improperly installed.

The pipe slipped lose. And more than 100 gallons of a preservative called “thion” spilled out on the floor and then flowed into the adjacent quarry.

Thompson says the chemical is widely used as a fungicide. He says it dissolved quickly in the 3 million gallons of water contained in the quarry.

(Thompson) “From a technical standpoint, I don’t think it’s a problem but we’re not taking any chances. We’re tracking down all the chemistries that are involved in this to make sure we don’t have an issue.”

(Dillon) Omya’s operations are under scrutiny because the company wants to stockpile waste material, known as the “tailings,” in another old quarry in town.

Opponents of the plan question the company’s safety record. They note that in the year 2000 the company spilled 45-hundred gallons of chemicals. More recently, there have been smaller releases of oil and other material into the environment. Opponents say they’re worried that the mine tailings will also contain chemicals.

Thompson, the Omya plant manager, says the company tries to run an environmentally safe operation.

(Thompson) “Presently, we had a new installation that failed. I think it’s unfortunate that that happened. I believe that we responded to the issue. The preservative has not entered into the tailing stream. It is my intent to keep it from going there. So it is really a non issue as far as the tailings permit we have under review now “

(Dillon) Pittsford town manager James O’ Gorman says the company told him it had spilled 250 gallons on Monday, not the 122 gallons the company now says was released.

O’Gorman says state officials have assured him that the chemical will not damage the town water supply.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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