Town Responds After East Boston Camps Tractor Accident

Town officials report that four gallons of diesel fuel leaked out of East Boston Camps caretaker George Fletcher's tractor after he hit a stump.

Four gallons of diesel fuel were released from a tractor at the East Boston Camps and portions of Plain Road last Tuesday after caretaker George Fletcher reportedly hit a stump.

According to an official report from Westford conservation and resource planner Bill Turner, the incident occurred at approximately 3:30 p.m. while Fletcher was returning to his home on Plain Road near following cleanup of trees damaged during the October snowstorm.

While employees on duty at Stony Brook Acres said that neither they nor any of their customers noticed the leak at the approximate time of the accident, Fletcher realized the situation at the gates of the camp and confirmed the leak arriving at his home, which is approximately 1,500 feet away from the entrance to the Camps.

He noticed that the gas tank on his tractor had significantly drained, followed by the discovery of the leak itself. However, he felt that the quantity of the leak, which he estimated at two gallons, was not worthy of immediately reporting to town officials, particularly given his belief that much of it would be washed away by the expected rain storms that evening.

“It was a small leak, and it didn’t have to be legally reported,” said Fletcher. “I’m as much of a conservationist as anybody, but I didn’t feel that there was so much spilled that it immediately had to be cleaned up. Others may disagree, but there was very little to clean up.”

According to Westford Police Capt. Victor Neal, emergency officials were informed of the leak by a local resident at 7:08 a.m. on Wednesday morning, followed by later investigation of the scene by Westford Board of Health officials.

Soon after the incident was reported, workers were on the scene with Speedy Dry absorbent material to collect the spill in pavement areas. It was transported back to the Highway Department facilities on North Street along with diesel spilled in dirt areas, which were scraped up directly.

Highway Department officials also placed soil absorbent pads and booms in areas near the spill where water was accumulating or where there was potential risk of the spill seeping into wetlands, particularly near Day Beach. Turner’s report indicating that most of the runoff related to these methods was able to be collected before it impacted sensitive areas.

Aferwards, the incident to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, although it was not required to have been reported to DEP officials due to the agency’s 10 gallon minimum threshold for diesel spills.

With the “Limited Removal Action” portion of the cleanup now complete, according to Westford director of land use management Angus Jennings, the town now awaits further analysis of the situation by ENPRO Services and a field geologist from Woodward and Curran.

UPDATES - 9:40 (See Comments Section)

R Gagnon December 13, 2011 at 01:39 PM
A couple of small inaccuracies in the story. 1) The official report from Bill Turner says the caretaker became aware that his tractor was leaking fuel when he exited the tractor to close the gate at EBC. Not when the caretaker got back to the house. 2) It was NOT the town that reported the leak to the MDEP. When the person who first reported the spill at 7:08AM returned around 12PM that day, all he saw was some speedy-dry sprinkled on the paved section of the road where the spill apparently started and the rest of the oil was floating on top of the rain water from the spill site to the gate and spreading towards woods and wetlands. It was this person, not the town, who reported the spill to the MADEP at around 1PM that day only after seeing what appeared to be a lackluster cleanup effort on the part of the town.
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) December 13, 2011 at 02:42 PM
Hi Richard, thanks for the comment, I've updated the article to reflect that, and I've also added a .pdf of Bill Turner's report.
w.t.f December 13, 2011 at 02:46 PM
The camps are a luxury in this town and I believe much better care needs to be taken to keep this luxury of ours a luxury. I have seen trash piled up there, a junk pile that took longer to remove than necessary and trials that had trees down on it for weeks before they were cleared. I do not like the way the current caretaker has performed especially in this year. In addition to the laziness, I don't appreciate the caretaker zipping up and down the main road of the camps. People and dogs do walk that road and its a safety issue in my eyes.
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) December 13, 2011 at 03:39 PM
I've been told from Patch HQ that they're having some problems with uploading photos and .pdfs, I'll check back and re-upload the report later today when that's likely to be resolved.
R Gagnon December 13, 2011 at 05:40 PM
Thanks Andrew. I wouldn't want the readers to be misslead into thinking the town actually responded in an effective way, even after it was reported. It was a resident who contacted the MA DEP and it was the MA DEP who told the town how it should respond. Left to its own devices, the town would have done nothing about the diesel spill and the oil that is in those barrels in the cover pictures would be spread all over Berges Pond by now.
Allen Hall December 13, 2011 at 09:36 PM
Mike. Trail maintenance is not the job of the caretaker but up to you. Join the Conservation Land Trust, Friends of the East Boston Camp and a group of Boyscouts Saturday, 12/17, at the parking lot off Depot Rd at 9:00 for a couple of hours of trail work. Bring hand tools for the job.
Kathleen Spaeth December 13, 2011 at 10:44 PM
I count 4 Drums in the above photograph? So how many Gallons (of Oil and Gasoline) do these Drums hold? It looks to me like it is more than 4 Gallons of Diesel Fuel (as reported in the Article) and more than 2 Gallons as reported by the Caretaker, George Fletcher. George is responsible for cleaning up after himself, especially since he became so blatantly aware of the "accident" immediately after it happened. It wasn't right for him to drive off the East Boston Camps Property and to also track his spill onto the Roads of Westford (at least an additional 1,500 feet to get to his house). The whole idea that he thought that the fuel spill would just disappear after it rained is very careless and a blatant disregard for hydrology and the surrounding wetlands. He should have reported the spill IMMEDIATELY so that the cleanup could have been dealt with IMMEDIATELY. A local resident shouldn't have had to be the responsible "reporting party". Why isn't anyone questioning George's lack of response and blatant disregard? Why are you spending so much time discussing the Town of Westford's lack of response? Let's bill George for the cost of the Hazardous Materials removal and the Westford Highway Department's Man Hours to respond, along with all the rest of the associated Environmental Clean Up Fees.
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) December 14, 2011 at 12:06 AM
Not a problem, my apologies again for the miscues in the nuance there.
R Gagnon December 14, 2011 at 12:08 AM
Allen, trail maintenance is in fact in the caretakers job description. I have cleared trails on my own when I have encountered blockages. Each time it was because the blockage was there for months in spite of the fact that, according to the job description, the caretaker is supposed to walk the property. He either didn't walk it according to the job description or he didn't bother with the blockage when he saw it. A couple of times I had to bring in my own chain saw to cut and clear the trail. Both times I left the cut piece on the side of the trail to decay and replenish the soil nutrients. I did not haul it up to the fire pit in order to provide free wood to camp lesees. If the Conservation Land Trust, FoEBC and Scouts want to volunteer their time to do work that the town already pays somebody to take care of, have at it. Get rid of the caretaker, and I'll volunteer my time to help out. I have a copy of the caretakers job description as a word document. If I can cut and paste it into a post here I'll do it. Otherwise, I'll put it up on the Westford Forum and let you know where to find it.
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) December 14, 2011 at 12:10 AM
Hi Kathleen, I'll check with Chip Barrett on how much those barrels hold, that sounds like a great question for our Patch Answers column (every Thursday afternoon, send us your questions!) I'll also follow up in a week or two with an update on the situation of the spill.
June McMorrow December 14, 2011 at 02:38 AM
Kathleen, Go back and have another look @ the photo. There are six barrels. I walked the North Road tonight. The smell of oil/fuel is still present. June
R Gagnon December 14, 2011 at 01:22 PM
I think the most reliable estimate of how much fuel was spilled would probably come from ENPRO Services and/or Woodward and Curran. If they say only 4 gallons, then I'll believe it. I don't take the word of the guy who drove away from it since, from my perspective, his actions call his objectivity into question.
w.t.f December 14, 2011 at 01:48 PM
The barrels look like they are 55 Gallon drums - 6 x 55 = 330 Gallons in my book, but of course, I am sure there is the speedy dry and soil from which the spill was on.
Kathleen Spaeth December 14, 2011 at 09:49 PM
Yes, there are 6 Barrels and I counted wrong. Yikes! I realize that the speedy dry and the contaminated soil had to be removed too, but this appears to be a lot of Barrels for only 4 Gallons of Diesel Fuel spilled. Why is there still the smell of Diesel Fuel, too?. I think some one isn't telling us all the truth here!!


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