If not for a vigilant and fast-acting fitness buff, the county response to the Bronx River oil spill might not have been where was today, with a multi-departmental effort by the City of White Plains, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Greenburgh environmental workers, and the Westchester County district attorney's office coordinating efforts.
But, it turns out, the now-widely reported story of the Scarsdale jogger might be a bit of a myth
According to emergency response reports from Scarsdale police, Scarsdale Fire Department, the Breaking News Network, and accounts from White Plains officials, the earliest alarm of the oil spill came from an early riser on Walworth Avenue whose dog needed to go out.
Joan Sereysky, a 15-year resident, said it was actually her Golden Retriever who refused to leave the house yesterday morning.
"I came out and it smelled like a chemical. I knew it wasn't a natural gas odor nor the odor that they put into propane, because I have a gas grill," she said.
"I wasn't sure what was causing the strong chemical aroma, and, actually, the dog didn't even want to go out in it," said Sereysky, who said she called the fire department around 7 a.m.
The spill, which was estimated to have dumped 300 to 400 gallons of heating oil no.6 into the riverbed, most of which is being absorbed along Scarsdale's shoreline, turned out to have emanated from a White Plains building where residents allege past maintenance problems.
Judy Joynt, 57, Sereysky's neighbor, said her neighbor's response had fire trucks parked on the block in mere minutes, responding by 7:15 a.m. at the latest.
"They looked around our house and they (couldn't find any source for the smell), but they didn't stop looking around to see what he could see," said Joynt.
"One guy did smell something, but the others said, in the morning there's a heaviness in the air, [and it may have migrated from something else.] They were looking everywhere, down behind the house, up in the trees, they didn't know where to look," said Joynt.
Eventually, Scarsdale was notified again by a resident on River Road about the smell, and when they contacted White Plains, the city sprung to action, and Scarsdale Fire Department immediately began the earliest efforts to clean up the spill with an existing supply of absorbent pods and booms.
"In terms of response, I was very pleased and gratified in terms of how well our fire department did respond to calls they have from residents who live along the Bronx River, who noticed the odor, I guess, coming into their homes from there," said Mayor Carolyn Stevens. "Luckily the Fire Department did have the proper equipment and began the cleanup efforts, which they knew how to do."
By the time Joynt left home at 8:45 a.m., she said the smell had almost disappeared, and Sereysky, who shares a driveway with her neighbor, agrees.
"I think one of the reasons that I smelled anything at my house is because there was a heavy sort of mist cover, as there is many mornings, before the sun is fully up and burns it off and it all rises. I noticed it was pocketed in and around the house, and I said, 'Gee does anyone else notice it?'"
She called the fire department, and by the time they responded, "the sun was up a little higher, the evening cover had probably lifted and at that point even I had a hard time smelling it, it was a kind of trace of smell, and they trooped around and didn't smell anything. But, then again, there's a whole park between my house and the river," she said.
She was happy to know that, when a second call came in reported from a jogger near Main Street in White Plains and another resident, the agencies were already on red alert.
"I think everyone tried. I certainly tried. The firemen who were there and tried to see what they could see, they tried. One hates to call the fire department over just some mysterious noxious odor that could end up being a neighbor's garbage. I think it's great that whomever it was that was able to pinpoint what it was found what happened," she said.
When asked if she was shocked that the odor which initially worried her so much she decided to forego her morning smoke turned out to be 300 gallons of heating oil in the river, she said yes.
"Was I surprised? Yes, I guess I was. Actually went down later in the day and said, 'Well it's a lovely shade of rust brown,'" but she still didn't know it was as a result of the spill. She finally learned of the spill from the 11 o'clock TV news, and the newspapers this morning. She also read about the jogger.
"It's horrible, of course its horrible," she said. "I don't need notoriety or publicity, I need neither one, as long as it was discovered, and taken care of, that was what was important," she said.
Asked how she feels about such a damaging event occurring in her backyard, she said she thought her feelings were shared by many of her neighbors.
"It concerns everybody, I would think, wherever the oil spill is happening, whenever an oil spill happens in a waterway," she said. "I think basically everyone is concerned. There's ducks and geese and egrets, and herons in the river," she noted.
According to reports from the City of White Plains, Greenburgh Animal Control is actively looking for any wildlife that was affected, and by 3 p.m. had retreived a Canada goose and a duckling with oil on them. They were taken to the Greenburgh Nature Center for rehabilitation.
One baby goose that was found survived for a few hours, but then died, according to a 3 p.m. update Thursday that stated a remediation crew with 20 members was working on the river today.
"I like birds and animals, and, like most people I would guess, I don't like wildlife to be covered with oil," said Sereysky.