Oyster farmers assess a diesel fuel spill from an approximately 26-foot sunken boat in the Damariscotta River in Newcastle on Friday morning. The spill was located approximately 100 feet from several oyster farms. Credit: Evan Houk / Lincoln County News

An approximately 26-foot-long sunken boat leaking diesel fuel was discovered in the Damariscotta River in Newcastle about 100 feet from several oyster farms on Friday morning.

Chris Dickinson of Norumbega Oyster found the boat and notified Interim Newcastle Fire Chief Casey Stevens and the Newcastle Fire Department was dispatched by Lincoln County Communications at 7:17 a.m. The Damariscotta Fire Department was called shortly thereafter to respond with a boat and more oil booms to contain the diesel spill.

Stevens said the boat was completely sunk when he was notified.

Members of the Newcastle and Damariscotta fire departments cast off from the Damariscotta town landing and rode about a mile-and-a-half downriver with oil booms to contain the diesel fuel spill in order to prevent it from contaminating oysters.

“Damariscotta did a great job helping with their boat and some extra oil booms. We really appreciate their help,” Stevens said.

He also said that workers from Norumbega were a great help in containing the spill and provided divers who were able to plug the vent on the fuel tank where the fuel was leaking from.

Kellie Peters, co-owner of Norumbega Oyster Inc., said that the oyster farming crew “dropped everything” to help firefighters contain the spill.

Jeff Nichols, spokesperson for the Maine Department of Marine Resources, said that the area will be closed for wild shellfish harvesting until at least Monday.

A notice from the department states that the area in the upper Damariscotta River where shellfish harvesting is currently prohibited as of Friday is: south of a line beginning at the end of Little Point Road in Edgecomb running southeast to the southwest tip of Hall Point in Damariscotta; west of a line beginning at the southwestern tip of Hall Point running southeast to the opposite shore; and north of a line beginning at the end of Perkins Point Road in Edgecomb running southeast to the end of Tudor Road in Bristol.

Nichols said that crews from the marine department will be collecting and testing shellfish samples on Monday to determine if there is any contamination and when shellfish harvesting can be reopened.

The department will also be working with the oyster farms in the area of the spill to determine when the oysters grown there can go to market, Nichols said.

“Sampling will take place Monday and tests will be done on the same day to determine when aquaculturists can begin selling product from their sites,” Nichols said in a Friday email.

The boat is owned by Karen Benner of River Road in Newcastle, according to Keegan Nelligan of the Maine Marine Patrol, who responded to the scene. Nelligan said Benner had been notified and a plan would be conceived to recover the boat, which had only the bow sticking out of the water when firefighters responded.

Stevens said that the owner of the boat is working with a salvage company to recover it.

He said the Maine Department of Environmental Protection investigated the diesel spill and said that firefighters did a good job of containing it.

Firefighters established a perimeter around the spill with oil booms to contain it and used pads to soak up diesel fuel.

The scene was clear at 10:17 a.m.

This story appears through a media partnership with The Lincoln County News.