Nearly two weeks after an oil spill was discovered just near two Northport neighborhoods, city leaders held a press conference to say the matter is now in the hands of officials from Tuscaloosa County, the Alabama Department of Envrionmental Management and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Northport Mayor Bobby Herndon was joined by fire chief Bart Marshall, councilwoman Jamie Dykes and county EMA director Nick Lolley to discuss the spill at City Hall Tuesday afternoon.

Herndon said the city was first made aware of the problem on April 15th, when someone called Northport Fire Rescue to report a chemical smell in the area of Huntington Meadows and Hunting Gardens, two neighborhoods off Mitt Lary Road.

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Herndon said firefighters responded immediately and within 30 minutes, had discovered the apparent source of the stench -- an oil spillage behind a truck and equipment repair facility on Mitt Lary Road. The oil seemed to be seeping into nearby wetlands and into a stream that feeds into Carroll 's Creek, which flows into Lake Tuscaloosa.

Herndon said Northport employees deployed booms to stop the oil from flowing downstream and then contacted the Tuscaloosa EMA for assistance -- the property in question is outside the Northport city limits, and Herndon said the city has shifted into a support role as other parties work to clean up the spill and identify the parties responsible for it.

"Some people have been sort of bashing Northport for not doing much in terms of letting everyone know what's going on. Well, first of all, this piece of property is not in the Northport city limits. Protocol was followed. The property the spillage is on is covered under the Northport Fire Department's jurisdiction, but it's not in the city limits," Herndon said. "Now it's in the hands of ADEM and the EPA. Everything has been done by the city of Northport that should have been done and could have been done."

Herndon said the county EMA was on the scene 20 minutes after NFR found the spill site and ADEM officials arrived less than 12 hours later. Herndon also confirmed that federal EPA agents are conducting a criminal investigation into the spill.

Lolley, representing the county EMA, also said the matter was largely out of his agency's hands. He said cleanup efforts and testing of water samples and air quality would fall to the ADEM and EPA.

"We don't have the manpower of the tools to do that," Lolley said.

No representatives from the Tuscaloosa County Commission, ADEM or the EPA were at the press conference Tuesday afternoon, but Herndon said he has been told efforts to clean the site have been going well and "shouldn't take very long," although he could not give a more specific timeframe.

 

Herndon, Marshall and Lolley each referred additional questions about the spill and the investigation into its cause and perpetrators to ADEM and the EPA.

"Northport did follow protocol, Northport took every step they were supposed to take," Herndon said. "We followed the chain of command and to our citizens, we did what we were supposed to."

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