On March 9th the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MA DEP) received a report of a visible sheen below the Turners Falls dam, a facility owned and operated by FirstLight Power. MA DEP reported this issue to FirstLight, and in response, the company identified that existing absorbent materials on two hydraulic pistons had been saturated and then replaced the materials.

If this sounds like a story you’ve heard before, you’re not imagining it. Just last year, recreationists on the river noticed an oil leak from the pistons on the Turners Falls dam. Over the course of several months in 2022, FirstLight released an estimated 300 gallons of oil into the Connecticut River, damaging critical habitat for the endangered species that rely on clean and healthy water.

Now, a year later, we’re seeing a similar story emerge. Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC) staff have been in contact with both MA DEP and FirstLight about the current sheen below the dam and the leaking pistons. We were assured that the absorbent booms and materials would be changed out regularly and that the leak had been sufficiently contained.

On a visit to the site on March 17th, more than a week after the initial sheen was reported, we noticed a visible sheen on the water below the dam.

Adding insult to injury, some of the absorbent materials do not seem to be secured to the pistons or dam in any way and we found one floating downstream of the dam. Needless to say, if the materials are in fact absorbing oil and then floating downstream, this only serves to add yet another pollutant to the river.

Any amount of oil that FirstLight discharges into the Connecticut River has an immediate, harmful impact on the aquatic ecosystem. We are extremely disappointed that FirstLight has allowed this same story to play itself out two years in a row. CRC continues to remain engaged with MA DEP to ensure that FirstLight is held accountable not only to sufficiently contain this leak, but to prevent such leaks from happening again.