SOUTH PORTLAND — About 2,000 gallons of contaminated water has been removed from Willard Beach since Tuesday, when oily waste was discovered coming from a storm drain and the beach was closed, state and federal officials said Thursday.

Cleanup crews also have removed about 2,000 pounds of oily seaweed, other debris and absorbent pads used to sop up contaminants that officials said leaked from the site of a nearby service station that is being renovated.

The contaminants got into South Portland’s storm water system Tuesday afternoon, officials said. The pipes from that system flow into Casco Bay at Willard Beach. Tests are being conducted to determine what was in the contaminant, according to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The beach will remained closed Friday, but it might be reopened this weekend, officials said.

Officials have declined to publicly identify who they believe was responsible for the spill, but South Portland officials have said investigators are looking into a report of a leak or spill of a petroleum product from an address on Cottage Road, about a half-mile from the beach. A crew from Clean Harbors, an environmental services company, was working at the former Hill’s Service Station at 491 Cottage Road on Wednesday, when the pavement was covered with petroleum residue and patches of granular white absorbent material.

Investigations into the leak are being conducted by the Maine DEP and by the Coast Guard, officials said. In addition to local, state and federal agencies, Friends of Casco Bay and Clean Harbors have been assisting in the cleanup.


Smith said the person they believe was responsible for the leak has been cooperative and Coast Guard officials said it’s too soon to say if they might seek a fine for the discharge, which appeared to be accidental. The cost of the cleanup effort wasn’t known on Thursday.

The size of the spill also is unclear. Officials said they couldn’t estimate how much of the liquid removed or sopped up with pads was the contaminant and how much was storm water that mixed with it.

In addition to removing the oily waste from the beach and surf, crews cleaned the property at the service station and cleaned and flushed the storm drains leading from the site of the spill to the beach, according to the DEP.

All cleanup efforts were expected to end Thursday afternoon.

Officials expect to get results from water quality tests and beach core sample tests on Friday, and city, state and federal officials will meet then to discuss next steps.

Coast Guard officials said that the spill was not considered a major incident and that local and state officials have worked well together in identifying the source of the leak and in the cleanup.


“In the grand scheme of things, this is a minor incident from the federal perspective,” said Coast Guard Petty Officer Zachary Kniskern.

The pollution was discovered after beachgoers reported an oily sheen on the water at the beach that rims Simonton Cove on Casco Bay.

The 4-acre, crescent-shaped beach stretches from Southern Maine Community College to Fisherman’s Point. The storm drain outfall pipe juts from the sand at the center of the beach, near the main entrance, bathhouse, snack bar and playground.

Maxwell Smith, a DEP oil and hazardous materials responder, said the initial response was hectic Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday, he said, “people were swimming in oil. Dogs were rolling in it. Then we were fighting the tide coming in.”

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