State and county hazardous substance investigators along with local police and firefighters converged on Mermaid Park Saturday afternoon.
State and county hazardous substance investigators along with local police and firefighters converged on Mermaid Park Saturday afternoon to investigate a suspicious white liquid leaching into the newly renovated Mermaid Pond.
Springfield Township Manager Michael Taylor said that the milky-white liquid could not immediately be identified but that it had a pH level of 13, nearly double normal levels and indicative of hazardous waste. Taylor added that the investigators are “reasonably confident” that the substance came from a sewer drain connected to the nearby Metlab heat-treatment plant at the corner of Mermaid Lane and Queen Street, Wyndmoor.
“We’ve talked to Metlab and they’ve been very cooperative,” he said.
The contamination was initially noticed by a local resident who notified Springfield police. Taylor said that per protocol the police notified township officials who brought in investigators from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as well as Montgomery County’s Hazardous Materials (Hazmat) team. They were joined by Springfield Police and Wyndmoor Hose Company firefighters.
The substance could be seen in a drain ditch that is linked to an underground drain that is connected to the Metlab facility.
Taylor said that investigators identified the same white substance in the drain that opens on the Metlab property. It had a pH level of 14 at that location, he said.
Mermaid Park, a 64-acre open space and pond at the intersection of Elm Avenue and Mermaid Lane, Wyndmoor, has recently been extensively restored by Springfield Township. Renovations included dredging of the pond to remove sediment deposits from stormwater runoff and streambank erosion and the construction of a 2,055-foot walking trail.
The project was financed with $223,000 from the Montgomery County Planning Commission, along with Giant Company and the Commonwealth.
Since completion of the restoration there has been a dramatic increase in usage of the park. The project was also recognized with the 2023 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence.
Mermaid Pond is a tributary to the Wissahickon Creek.
This is not the first time that contaminants, traced to Metlab, have leaked into Mermaid Pond. In October 2002, state and local environmental officials, including DEP, investigated a large oil spillage leaching from the same culvert ditch connected to the heat treatment plant. The spillage killed nesting aquatic birds, fish and muskrats. Taylor said that Metlab covered the cost of that cleanup.