EXETER — After more than a year of investigation, the state Department of Environmental Protection announced Friday that it is unable to identify who’s responsible for oil entering Hicks Creek.
DEP responded in March 2012 to reported creek contamination and immediately began investigating how a substance described as “lubricating oil” made it into the creek.
Standing by that creek on Friday, DEP spokeswoman Colleen Connolly said the department tried to trace the oil back to its source but was “not able to definitively determine where the oil came from and how it got into the creek.”
DEP had three “suspects” in mind, but was unable to say for sure if any of them was responsible, Connolly said. She also declined to identify who they were.
Within two months of the oil being found in the creek, DEP cited Bosco Inc. and issued a notice of violation to Bridon American for violations discovered on their properties. Both are in the vicinity of Hicks Creek, and the violations were spotted during DEP’s Hicks Creek investigation.
Connolly would not say whether those two companies were among the three “suspects.”
“Physical evidence was gone a month after this happened and the oil trail just isn’t leading us anywhere,” Connolly said. “The only way we’re going to get any more evidence is if someone comes forward,” she said, noting that the investigation remains open.
She implored anyone with knowledge of the oil contamination to contact DEP at 826-2511. Had the culprit been identified and sanctioned under the state’s Clean Stream Law, the civil penalty could have been in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The department, said Connolly, spent money to keep the oil slick from making its way into the Susquehanna River and spent “countless man hours on the extensive and exhaustive investigation.” The department was able to find how the oil entered the water system, with Connolly saying a manhole on Stevens Lane had visible signs of oil when inspectors lifted it last March.
But the trail grew cold and the time had come for DEP to announce its findings, or lack of them.
“We just came to the conclusion we’re just not going to get anywhere else,” Connolly said.