In early February, 43 people participated in a full-scale tabletop training exercise where the scenario was a chemical spill Into the Androscoggin River. The event took place at the Topsham Public Safety Building.
Participants included: Maine CDC Drinking Water Program; Maine Department of Environmental Protection; Maine Emergency Management Agency; Cumberland and Sagadahoc County Emergency Management Agencies; the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection; the Brunswick/Topsham Water District; the Maine Rural Water Association; the Brunswick and Topsham Fire Departments; the Brunswick Sewer Department; Topsham Public Works; the Bath Water District; the Topsham Police Department; the U.S. Coast Guard and Mid Coast Hospital.
In this scenario, a fuel tanker and a truck containing compressed natural gas cylinders were involved in a traffic accident and spilled diesel fuel into a small stream near water supply wells of the Brunswick/Topsham Water District, threatening the wells and the nearby Androscoggin River. Release of propane gas created a dangerous situation at the crash scene, delaying cleanup of the spilled fuel. Later in the day, another hypothetical traffic accident occurred in a different part of town, which resulted in a water main break near Mid Coast Hospital. This combination of unexpected events created challenges to protect public safety, maintain service to water customers and mitigate impacts to the environment.
The origin and planning of these exercises resulted from collaboration between the Maine CDC Drinking Water Program and Maine DEP’s Division of Technical Services and Division of Response Services following the January 9, 2014 Elk River chemical spill in West Virginia. The recent Flint, Michigan water supply lead contamination incident was also highlighted at the training to emphasize the importance of risk communications during any incident that may threaten drinking water quality.