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Chemicals Leak Into Neponset River After Norwood Fire

NORWOOD (CBS) --  Flames burned through an old tannery in Norwood Wednesday night, causing it to collapse onto barrels of chemicals. Hawes Brook runs under that abandoned building.

"Brook runs through my backyard," said resident Michael Nemeskel, who lives downstream and usually uses the brook to water his gardens. After the fire, he received an alert from the town.

"It looks a little reddish. And, that was the thing it said don't let the kids near it, some fish had died. I haven't seen anything yet, but I will be watching," said Nemeskel.

Less than a quarter of a mile upstream the chemicals are blamed for a fish kill.

"It appears to be dye from the old tannery," said Ian Cooke of the Neponset River Watershed Association. "Hawes Brook feeds the Neponset, and a lot of stuff went downriver as firefighters put water on the blaze to put it out."

Signs warn visitors of contaminated water.

Norwood fire
Chemicals leaked into a brook after a fire in Norwood (WBZ-TV)

"We're not sure exactly what was left," said John Mckeown of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA is investigating. Right now, it's unclear the amount of chemicals or exactly what chemicals went into the brook.

Investigators say typically heavy metals were used in the tannery process.

Now, giant 21,000 gallon containers are by the burned tannery where crews are pumping out contaminated water.

The EPA will test the water that they are removing. They say the chemicals will dissipate in the brook and getting some rain will speed up that process.

Nemeskel will hold off using the water or letting his kids near it until there are more answers.

The State Fire Marshal's office says the start of fire had some human involvement but it's investigating whether it was accidental or intentional.

There have been a couple other fires in the area in the past few weeks, but officials have not drawn any connections.

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