By Rachel Ravina, Staff Writer
(Aug. 29, 2019) The saga of the caustic chemical clean-up at Heron Park continued Monday evening after the Berlin Town Council unanimously agreed to authorize two more payments totaling $30,453.50.
“This is an ongoing clean-up that we expect to be completed by the end of this week,” Berlin’s Mayor Gee Williams said.
So far, the town has spent $164,918.56 on the problem at Heron Park, formerly known as Berlin Falls Park, according to invoices from Chesapeake Environmental Services.
The company is managing the disposal of an undetermined amount of sodium hydroxide 50 percent (caustic soda or lye), which has industrial applications.
An Aug. 9 invoice for $29,963 to the town listed services to “provide equipment and labor to transport soil contaminated with caustic to the landfill for disposal.”
The work for this task started on Aug. 5 and took four days to complete.
An Aug. 2 bill to the town cost $490.50 for crews to “pick up all three poly storage containers and bring back to the Connelly Mill Facility” in Delmar, Maryland.
The council previously approved a series of payments to Chesapeake Environmental Services following the incident at the town-owned park on Old Ocean City Boulevard.
In addition to the most recent payments, an invoice for $107,524.83 was approved during a July 22 meeting, and the council authorized funds for two other invoices, $24,809.23 and $2,131, during an Aug. 12 meeting.
Berlin officials said they learned of the incident around 11:45 a.m. on June 26 after a Facebook post began circulating about the spill, according to Berlin’s Managing Director Jeff Fleetwood.
Town staff then proceeded to contact the town’s consulting firm, EA Engineering, Science and Technology Inc., Chesapeake Environmental Services and the Maryland Department of the Environment.
The spill was located “adjacent to two ponds,” according to a statement from Williams. He said tests were done and “no chemicals were found” in the ponds.
Williams added that a chain link fence, silt fencing and an absorbent buffer were installed around the spill site following the chemical removal.
After the initial clean-up, Berlin’s Town Administrator Laura Allen said “we received clearance from the fire marshal to have the fireworks” on July 3 at the site on Old Ocean City Boulevard.
However, Allen said additional conversations between Chesapeake Environmental Services and the Worcester County Fire Marshal’s Office last month prompted the closure. She anticipated the park would be shut down for about two-to-three weeks, although the park remains closed more than one-month-later.
Williams said the Town of Berlin is expecting a final invoice for about $11,000 on Thursday for additional work at the site.
It remains unclear how the spill happened or when the park will reopen. As for the cause, Williams didn’t say much about it during an Aug. 12 meeting.
“We’re very restricted in what we can say because of potential legal issues,” Williams said earlier this month.