DEP, fish commission probe sheen on Monongahela

Updated:

DRAVOSBURG, Pa. - Officials were alerted to a sheen spotted on the Monongahela River Sunday morning.

Passersby reported the oily sheen on the water to authorities, and emergency crews went to the Mansfield Bridge to check out the situation around 9 a.m.

Chief Alvin Henderson, of the Department of Emergency Services, said, “The sheen that we’re looking at is basically rainbow in color. A lot of times for us that would lead us to believe it would be petroleum-based from what we’re seeing thus far and from the smell that we’re experiencing as the crews are working in that area.”

Hazmat and swift water rescue boats scanned the shores and took water samples in order to determine what caused the sheen.

DEP spokesman John Poister estimated about 36 gallons of a petroleum-based substance was causing the sheen, which stretched about a mile along the river, but was dissipated as runoff from recent rains increased the river's flow in the area.  

Pennsylvania American Water draws drinking water from the river, but used booms to keep the oily substance out of its water intakes.

The impact on aquatic life is a concern.

“We did see approximately four to six dead fish along the streamline in the affected area. We made a notification to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission as well,” said Henderson.

Commercial traffic on the river was allowed, but recreational boats were restricted from the affected water.