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Heron Park, formerly known as Berlin Falls Park, remains temporarily closed following a chemical spill in June at the site on Old Ocean City Boulevard in Berlin. The Town Council approved two additional invoices totaling more than $26,000 during a meeting Monday evening.

Additional invoices mount, funds authorized as closure lingers at town-owned park

(Aug. 16, 2019) The clean-up of toxic chemical at Heron Park – formerly known as Berlin Falls Park — continues after Berlin’s Town Council unanimously approved payment of two invoices totaling more than $26,000 during a meeting Monday evening. 

“What we’re doing is paying as we go,” said Mayor Gee Williams. 

Chesapeake Environmental Services Inc. is handling the clean-up process. A July 31 invoice for $24,809.23 to the town listed crews to “provide equipment and labor to complete a transfer of liquid caustic from the on site storage tanks.” Crews also needed to “rinse all storage tanks after they are loaded.”

Moreover, it cost $9,039 to transport two tanker loads of liquid caustic, and there was an $11.661.98 disposal fee, according to the July 31 invoice. 

A July 25 bill for $2,131 was required to “provide equipment and labor to provide sampling of all liquids and soil containers.”

Councilman Dean Burrell moved to approve the payment.

Berlin resident Marie Velong asked the Berlin’s mayor and council about the circumstances leading up to what has been referred to as a spill.

However, the elected officials remained tight-lipped.

“We’re very restricted in what we can say because of potential legal issues,” Williams said. 

The council unanimously approved the payment of a $107,524.83 invoice from Chesapeake Environment Services Inc. during a meeting last month. It detailed the labor and equipment required to “clean up and dispose of the contaminated soil.”

That aforementioned invoice classified the chemical as a sodium hydroxide 50 percent (caustic soda or lye), a base chemical with a pH level of 13, which is higher than a neutral pH level of 7.

The overall investigation stemmed from a Facebook post circulating on social media, which initially alerted people about the spill, Berlin’s Managing Director Jeff Fleetwood said earlier this summer.

Town officials said they first learned of it around 11:45 a.m. on June 26. They then called EA Engineering, Science and Technology Inc., the town’s resident consulting firm. Chesapeake Environmental Services and the Maryland Department of the Environment were also contacted. 

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, 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. 

As for the current timetable, it appears that it might take longer. 

Williams appeared optimistic about the timeline and hoped to get clearance to reopen the park by “the end of this month, early September at the latest.”

However, he stressed that safety is crucial. 

“… We will only reopen that park when we [are] absolutely certain in every way we can that there’s no hazardous materials of any kind, anywhere,” Williams said.

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