News Feature | May 2, 2017

Oil Contaminates Rochester Wastewater Treatment Facility

Dominique 'Peak' Johnson

By Peak Johnson

In recent weeks, nearly 100 gallons of oil has contaminated the wastewater treatment facility serving Rochester, NH. The oil is thought to be hydraulic fluid or used motor oil that entered into the plant’s system over the course of three days.

According to, Director of City Services John Storer, “estimated the total quantity of oil to be between 50 and 100 gallons.”

The contamination is considered to be somewhat of a critical issue since the facility treats Rochester’s wastewater using natural bacteria, “which are killed if oils, paint thinners, and other synthetic materials and industrial waste are introduced into the system and its holding tanks.”

“It creates all kinds of issues,” said City Manager Dan Fitzpatrick. “I’ve had this issue in all the cities I’ve worked. This is not unique to Rochester. Sometimes they’re accidental spills, sometimes they’re illegal spills ... What we have to do now is figure out what’s disrupting the process, where it’s coming from and when those dumpings are.”

The city sent samples from the three contamination incidents to be profiled at a local lab. All three contaminations were traced back to the same oil, making officials optimistic that they could trace the source.

“There are no secrets in the sewers,” Storer told “We will find it. It’ll just take us some time.”

Fitzpatrick added that “it was too early to say whether the city will seek criminal or civil action to recoup the costs to remediate the oil, which to date has been done by skimming the oil off the top of the water at the plant.”

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Wastewater Contaminant Removal Solutions Center.