Retired Firefighter Harvey Rosenstiehl and retired Army Door Gunner in Vietnam Jack Reinsenwitz raise the flag this morning for a Memorial Day Ceremony at the Whitman Square Fire Station
TRENTON - Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that a
Gloucester County man pleaded guilty yesterday to criminal charges for
recklessly causing an oil spill last year in Spring Lake and Mantua Creek in
Washington Township by using a vacuum tank truck containing an industrial
solvent to pump the water from his swimming pool and discharge it into a
storm drain. The truck was used to transport a petroleum distillate called
“cutting oil,” but the man said he believed it was empty.
John Caldwell, 48, of Washington Township, pleaded guilty before Superior
Court Judge M. Christine Allen-Jackson in Gloucester County to an accusation
charging him with violating the Water Pollution Control Act and causing or
risking widespread injury or damage, both third-degree crimes. Under the plea
agreement, the state will recommend that he be sentenced to five years of
probation, conditioned upon him performing 150 hours of community service,
paying a $5,000 fine, and bearing joint and several liability for restitution
of $193,894, consisting of cleanup costs and $2,385 in overtime costs for the
Washington Township Fire Department. Sentencing for Caldwell is scheduled for
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Barile took the plea for the Division of
Criminal Justice Environmental Crimes Unit, within the Specialized Crimes
Bureau. Detective Sgt. Steven Ogulin was the lead detective for the Division
of Criminal Justice. The Division of Criminal Justice investigated with the
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The DEP
oversaw cleanup of the spill by a private contractor. Approximately
3,000 gallons of oil were recovered from the lake and the creek.
In pleading guilty, Caldwell admitted that on June 29, 2014, he recklessly
used the vacuum truck to drain the water from his swimming pool and discharge
it into a storm drain in front of his house on Uranus Road. In the process,
he discharged the cutting oil into the storm drain, which drains to Mantua
Creek and Spring Lake. The storm drain had a warning sign: “No Dumping -
Drains to Waterway.”
The vacuum truck, which has a 3,600 gallon tank, belongs to Caldwell’s
former employer, EISCO. At the time, Caldwell was a truck operator for EISCO
who worked at an oil refinery in Philadelphia. EISCO, which has a fleet of
vacuum trucks, was contracted to transport cutting oil in connection with
tank cleaning operations at the refinery. Caldwell told investigators that
when he borrowed the truck from his employer, he believed it was empty.
Caldwell was fired from his job after the incident.
The spill was reported later the same day, June 29, by homeowners who
observed an oily substance in Mantua Creek and smelled a strong odor of
diesel fuel around the creek and Spring Lake, which is near the intersection
of Pittman Downer and Fish Pond roads. The DEP and Division of Criminal
Justice Environmental Crimes Unit responded, along with the Washington
Township Fire Department.
Investigators traced the spill to the storm drain in front of Caldwell’s
house, where oil staining was observed on the drain and the same diesel fuel
odor was noticed. Witnesses were interviewed who had seen the vacuum
truck at Caldwell’s house. They had seen a hose going from the vacuum truck
to the swimming pool behind the house, and later, a hose from the truck to the
storm drain. Investigators spoke to Caldwell, who admitted that he used the
vacuum truck to pump out his swimming pool.
The DEP’s Bureau of Emergency Response worked for three months, overseeing
state contractors that cleaned up the discharge.
Acting Attorney General Hoffman commended the DEP for its
role in the investigation and its actions in response to the spill. He also
thanked the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, which assisted in the
investigation, the Washington Township Fire Department, which provided
valuable assistance in operations at the scene of the spill, and the U.S.
Coast Guard Marine Laboratory, which analyzed oil samples taken in the case.
The Washington Township Fire Department worked for several days containing this
spill and then worked closely with the NJ DEP in the clean up efforts that
transpired over the following weeks.
Battalion 3-Hurffville crews worked this week on their
extrication skills. Lt Dobleman was able to obtain three vehicles for training
and the crews worked on basic neutralization, stabilization, side/roof removal,
and pushing/rolling the dash.
Crews from the Washington Twp. Fire Dept were dispatched to a car into a house today on Egg Harbor Road. No injuries were reported.
Saturday, May 9, 2015
Tuesday May 5th approximately 80 Girl Scouts came to Fire District Headquarters for a tour.
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