Leak from Dartmouth ice rink paints nearby brook white

  • Jason Angell, of Dartmouth College Environmental Health and Safety, scrapes up soil covered with non-toxic white paint behind the Boss Tennis Center and Thompson Arena in Hanover, N.H., on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023. The paint, used to cover the surface beneath the ice in Thompson Arena, is usually removed as a slurry with the melted ice in the spring and sent to the town's wastewater treatment plant. But this year it remained in the arena until August when it was improperly dumped near a storm drain that empties into Girl Brook. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/21/2023 10:06:34 PM
Modified: 9/22/2023 10:33:50 PM

HANOVER — In a neighborhood game of hide-and-seek on Wednesday afternoon, 8-year-old Theodora Turevon thought she was the one hiding. But in a twist of fate, she ended up making a decisive finding.

The once-clear Girl Brook, a prime hiding spot behind her family’s Brook Hollow condominium off Verona Avenue, was running milky white.

She dragged a stick through the water, cutting through the substance that coated the surface of the stream.

“I called to my friend and said, ‘Let’s see where this stuff is coming from,’ ” said Theodora, a third grader at the Ray School. “Then I asked my mom if she wanted to come, to make sure we’d be alright.”

Upon seeing the brook for herself, Eleanor — Theodora’s mom — called the Hanover Fire Department. The responding firefighters cracked the case.

Paint from melting ice at Thompson Arena, Dartmouth College’s hockey rink off of Park Street, had made its way into an outside storm drain and then into Girl Brook, which is part of the Connecticut River watershed. A failed refrigerator system forced college employees to remove ice surface, which had been painted white, Deputy Fire Chief Michael Gilbert said.

Typically, ice removed from the arena melts into a sewage drain that sends it to Hanover’s wastewater treatment plant, Gilbert said. But this time, workers didn’t follow protocol.

“In their rush, they dumped some (of the ice) out back onto a lawn space” behind Boss Tennis Center, Gilbert said.

From there, the ice and paint made it into the waterway from a storm drain. A safety data sheet related to the paint was used to determined that it is nonhazardous and is allowed to be disposed of in a landfill, “but you certainly don’t want it in a stream,” he said.

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services is treating the matter like a solid waste disposal issue rather than a chemical spill, said Jim Martin, the department’s spokesperson. “Our (Watershed Management Bureau) staff will follow up with (Dartmouth) and ensure that the area is cleaned up so that there’s no further discharge of the paint into the Girl Brook area,” Martin said.

Dartmouth followed the proper protocols in reaching out to the department, he said, adding that there is no anticipated impact to the wildlife at the brook.

On Thursday, Dartmouth’s Environmental Hazard & Safety Team, which addresses occupational and lab safety as well as environmental protection issues, was managing the cleanup of the roughly 100-square-foot impacted area on the lawn. Workers with the group dug up the contaminated soil by hand and placed it in drums for off-site disposal, said Annette Chism, the director of the team.

Clean Harbors, a Bow, N.H.-based environmental services company, will dispose of the materials at its private facility, she said.

“While the paint isn’t hazardous, we look at this as something that we really didn’t have to put there,” Chism said. “It obviously didn’t look good in the brook. There’s a lot of hazardous and nonhazardous waste that (Dartmouth disposes) of on a regular basis, so this is about being a conscientious neighbor.”

By Thursday, Girl Brook was running clear near the Turevon home.

“It’s just so weird and hard for me to tell the feeling,” Theodora said about discovering that the stream near her home had taken on a ghostly pallor. “But I was sort of excited that this whole thing got so many people involved.”

Frances Mize is a Report for America corps member. She can be reached at fmize@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.

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