Green Pond Oil Spill Site: Background
The Green Pond Oil Spill site is located in Green Pond, New Jersey. The
site is bounded by the Pequannock River on the north side. Approximately
1.5 miles south of the site, the Pequannock River flows into the
Charlotteburg Reservoir, a water supply for the City of Newark.
The site location used to be occupied by Standard Oil Company who
operated a crude oil pumping station which was active from 1881 to 1920,
at which time the facility was torn down. Historical records indicate that a
series of events over the years have damaged the pipeline, thus causing oil
to seep into the groundwater and eventually make its way to the river.
The site is open and wooded and the northern side is bounded by a steep
escarpment that divides the upland area from the Pequannock River
flood plain. The area is relatively flat with the exception of a series of
man-made berms or embankments, which may date back to the
The Green Pond Oil Spill site is quite unique in that it has a significant
link to history. The former pumping station that used to stand where
the site lies today, was situated along the first major oil pipeline in the
United States that transferred crude oil from Olean, NY to Bayonne,
The first 6-inch line from Olean, NY to Bayonne, NJ was laid in
1881 and spanned a distance of 315 miles; the second 6-inch line
was laid in 1882; the third in 1884; and finally, the fourth one in the
late 1880s, making the total capacity of the system over 50,000
barrels a day.
The intent was to run the line as straight as the landscape allowed
without making any attempts to avoid river crossings and
mountain ranges. In New York, the line ran due east from Olean
through Cattaraugus, Allegany, Chemung, Tioga, Broome,
Deleware, Sullivan, and Orange counties, before dipping south into
the remaining three counties and finally crossing the New Jersey
state line at Unionville. Once in New Jersey, it ran northeastern
through Sussex, Morris, Passaic, Bergen, and Hudson counties,
then down to Bayonne.
The pipeline contained eleven efficiently constructed pumping
stations along the way, each one approximately 28 miles apart from
the last. The significant NY pumping stations were in Olean,
Wellsville, Cameron Mills, West Junction, Catatonk, Osborne
Hollow, and Hancock. The NJ stations were located in
Newfoundland, Saddle River, and Bayonne.
The stations were equipped with duplicate boilers, engines, and
pumps so that in the event of a breakdown, the oil would continue to
flow without interruption. The boiler houses contained seven
80-horsepower steam boilers. There were gauges to record the line
pressure and the number of barrels that ran through each station.
Newfoundland Pumping Station:
The pumping station most nearby and directly responsible for the
Green Pond oil spill was the Newfoundland, NJ station which is located
just east of the Green Pond Road.
Constructed in 1885, this station was situated alongside a railroad
so that coal needed to fire the station's six boilers was always
Daily operations at the station were run with great care and
organization. Each day, the boilers were tended by firemen, the oil
tanks were measured, and the coal was weighed.
In 1920, due to increasing concern over possible oil leakage from
the pipeline passing through the Pequannock Watershed area, the
pipe line was taken up and the Newfoundland pumping station no
Although most of the accidents along the pipeline occurred on the
stretch of pipe which crossed the Hudson River, there were isolated
incidences in other locations along the line as well.
In April 1883, the Wellsville Democrat reported that twenty barrels of
oil floated away daily on the surface of nearby Dyke's Creek.
At one point, the pipe was ruptured by a paving contractor in New
York City, spraying oil 60 feet in the air dousing the flowers and
palms which were blooming just outside of a local florist shop.
One Spring, a fleet of Erie canal boats were forced to drag anchor
due to moving ice, thus breaking the pipe line and releasing
hundreds of barrels of oil into the river. When a fireman on a nearby
tug boat dropped a shovel of live coals overboard to see if the
residue was oil, it lead to a massive fire, destroying canal boats and
a large warehouse on the riverbank.
Another incident on the Hudson occurred during Admiral Dewey's
famous homecoming parade when the captain of a visiting German
warship was warned not to anchor near the pipe line. Stubbornly
refusing to adhere, the captain did as he pleased and his ship's
anchor caught and broke the pipeline. Greenish oil rained all over
the ship and his crew.
On May 24, 1921, the pipe line had been responsible for the largest
oil fire on the Hudson River crossing. It began as a captain's gig
backfired and drew sparks which ignited a coating of oil that had
leaked from the line. The fire spread and reached the historical Civil
War ship, Granite State, which had been docked close by at the
97th Street pier. The famous historical structure burned to the
U.S. EPA Involvement:
On February 12, 1996, U.S. EPA Region II was notified by the NJ
Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) of an oil sheen
extending along the north side of the Pequannock River, just north of
Green Pond. Prior to the initial EPA visit, the City of Newark Water
Authority had test pits excavated directly along the river flood plain, in
addition to installing four 6-inch diameter, PVC recovery wells. Finally,
after conducting a walkover of the site, and due to the potential threat
to the public water supply, the EPA initiated site activity. Details of the
work performed as well as the results may be found on the site data