Naugatuck River Still Polluted After Torrington Tire Fire

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It’s been almost two weeks since the massive fire at a Torrington Tire warehouse, but some say it’s still causing trouble in the community.

Residents say the Naugatuck river is still polluted with pieces of melted rubber.

FOX CT learned of the situation when a concerned viewer called the investigative tip line and said that despite a contractor’s efforts to clean up, there was still toxic rubber in the river affecting wildlife and leaving residents with questions.

Ryan Callinan is the concerned viewer who called.

He’s spent years fishing on the Naugatuck River, but more recently he’s been taking pictures of its pollution. He’s snapped picture after picture of burnt-tire residue seeping through the water and onto the shores.

“Really, the part that made me most sick was watching a beaver swim through black, watching geese swim through black…” says Callinan.

The residue is the remnants of burnt tires from the “Toce Brothers” tire warehouse, which caught fire on the morning of April 3.

After the five-alarm fire was put out attention turned to the river, where a mix of solid black rubber and an oily goo poured into storm drains and then into the river water.

The tire company hired the “Moran Environmental” company to clean up the mess, but ultimately, the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection oversees all cleanup efforts.

“It’s sad to see,” says Callinan.

While it has been nearly two weeks since the tire fire and while certainly some of the residue has been cleaned up, it’s not difficult to find examples on the shore, where you can still see some of the thick, black, gooey tire residue that has many area residents very concerned.

Callinan points to photographs like the one he snapped, showing a boom with residue on both the containment side and the side that’s supposed to be kept free of debris.

He claims the cleanup effort is subpar.

DEEP Spokesman Dwayne Gardner meanwhile, doesn’t deny there are black particles in the river, but says the tire fire aftermath is actually harder to clean up than an oil spill.

In a statement released to Fox CT News he wrote:

“DEEP remains active in overseeing the cleanup from the Torrington fire.  O & G, the company that owns the building, has committed to cleanup efforts as long as debris continues to be discovered.  Due to river and weather conditions, debris may remain for some time as material sinks to the bottom of the river and then resurfaces later at a different location. Anyone discovering debris is urged to contact the DEEP Emergency dispatch center at 860-424-3333.”

As for wildlife, DEEP says health officials don’t believe the debris poses any health risks.

However, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, tires do break down into heavy metals and oil when they are burned.

The EPA says “oil that exudes into ground and surface water as a result of tire fires is a significant environmental pollutant” contaminating water with lead and arsenic.

It’s information that’s prompting Callinan to push for a more thorough cleanup of his beloved river.

“I’ve went there the day after the fire and then each day until five days after the fire and it was getting worse and worse each day.”

The state says they haven’t received any reports of fish or water fowl being affected so far and they urge anyone, who like Ryan Callinan, finds pockets of oil or rubber, to report them immediately.

To report debris in the water call the DEEP Emergency Reponse Unit at 860-424-3338 or email details to deep.dispatch@ct.gov

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