Blogs > Keeping Current > Fuel spill in Haverstraw: What we know, and what we don’t

Fuel spill in Haverstraw: What we know, and what we don’t

Fuel spill in Haverstraw

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On Sunday morning a call came into Riverkeeper’s Watchdog line that described a fuel spill near Dutchtown in Haverstraw. We were only minutes away by car, so we went to take photos and record any evidence.

No sooner than we turned onto Riverside Drive, an odor, seemingly that of diesel fuel, was quite evident. Upon arriving at a children’s park just north of Dutchtown the odor was bordering on noxious and there was a mica-like sheen on the river far below.

From there, we went to Haverstraw Beach State Park just south of Dutchtown to get a closer look. Here’s what we found:

Haverstraw Beach fuel spillThe photographs and video don’t tell the whole story. The sheen coated the rocks on the beach, sometimes far in from the shoreline. And while you can make out the sheen on the water at a considerable distance with the naked eye, we could not capture that in our photographs. While we could survey about 100 meters of shoreline south of Dutchtown, we could also see the sheen in the water north of that community.

As we write this, there are several stories circulating about the origin of this spill. We can’t comment much on the veracity of any, but here they are: The U.S. Coast Guard told a reporter from News 12 Hudson Valley that the sheen was fuel from rain runoff upriver and that the amount was only 5 to 10 gallons. The other, from the Rockland County Sheriff’s Department says that the spill came from a nearby Tilcon tugboat, that the Sheriff’s boat had deployed oil-absorbing booms and that “everything has been contained.” Tilcon, the quarry just to the north of the spill, says that its tug boats were not responsible for the spill.

Fuel on rocks in Haverstraw

However, there are a few problems with these reports:

First, once refined petroleum gets into a moving tidal waterway, it is virtually impossible to contain. And while booms may have been put in place around the spill (we did not observe any booms, but that’s not to say that there weren’t any), it’s obvious that the spill had spread beyond any reach.

Also, we find it unlikely that the spill was only about 5-10 gallons. Not only had the sheen spread a great distance to the south, what coated the beach was significant, and the fuel smell was very strong across a great distance. It’s likely to have been a much larger spill.

As of today, there’s still confusion about the spill’s source and it’s our hope that the Rockland County Sheriff’s Department and the Coast Guard can share with each other the information they have and provide the public with an accurate account of what happened in the Hudson River near Haverstraw on Sunday morning.

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