Oil spill in the Tuscarawas River impacts wildlife

Published: Jul. 14, 2023 at 11:38 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BARBERTON, Ohio (WOIO) - Crews have been hard at work the past week cleaning up an oil spill in the Tuscarawas River.

“I cried,” said James Carnahan. “I mean it hurt me so bad because the river was gone, I mean it was just nothing but death. There were dead ducks, you could see coated animals everywhere. There were coated ducks, you saw videos of some of the ones that were struggling, falling over, neurologically they were destroyed because they had ingested the oil trying to clean themselves off. It was horrendous.”

Last Wednesday Noble Oil Services was transferring oil from a tanker truck to a rail car on Snyder Avenue. The company said the hose either broke or came loose and oil spilled out, but at first, they didn’t realize oil had spilled into the storm drain which ended up in the river. It was actually James Carnahan who noticed and reported it later that week.

“Actually, that’s kind of what made me angry was that I felt like everybody was kind of just giving me a nice little dance they were saying yeah it’s being handled,” said Carnathan. “I’m looking at it and I’m saying it’s not being handled you know we’re talking five days after the incident before anybody publicly announced that there was a spill.”

George Bower, Vice President of Risk Management with Noble Oil said at this point they aren’t sure exactly how much oil spilled. Ironically the North Carolina-based company is typically involved in cleaning up oil spills for their customers and recycling oil.

The EPA said Barberton’s drinking water is still safe, it’s the impact on the animals that many are more concerned about.

Tim Jasinski is a wildlife rehabilitation specialist at Lake Erie Nature and Science Center. They are currently taking care of 45 Canadian geese.

“They were soaked, completely soaked in oil,” Jasinski said. “I mean oil destroys their waterproofing and so when they’re all soaked in oil they can’t go in the water and they get waterlogged if they are in the water and they can actually drown like that.”

Thankfully the geese are improving. At least two other wildlife facilities are rehabilitating other affected animals.

19 News reached out to ODNR to see exactly how many animals were affected but we have not heard back yet.

“When they first come in after an oil spill you have to give them fluids, give them other things to help counteract the oil in their system because when they’re preening to clean their feathers they’re actually ingesting that oil so we have to get their systems kind of clean and then wash the birds once they’re stable then give them more oral fluids to help kind of counteract that oil in their system,” Jasinski said.

Carnahan finally feels like Noble Oil’s crews are making progress.

“I was able to kind of see the crews in action that are doing the cleanup and they are making a difference, there is an impact, we still need rain,” said Carnathan. “We need a lot of rain to clear this up but they’re actually manually cleaning a lot of it up.”

Bower said they will continue to clean up until all the oil is gone, but they think they’re close to the finish line. Bower said they are investigating exactly what caused this and taking steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again.