A paper recycling facility in Sheldon Springs dumped 173,000 gallons of "untreated industrial process wastewater" into the Missisquoi River between Friday, August 14 and Tuesday August 18, according to state records.
Ernie Kelley, the head of the state's Wastewater Management Division in the Department of Environmental Conservation, said the state is looking into the spill and could take enforcement action against Rock-Tenn, the company that operates the plant.
"We are still investigating," Kelley said in an email. "Enforcement TBD. No comment beyond that at this time."
Kelley refused to comment on what pollutants may have been in the water, but according to the company's report to state officials there was no human waste in it.
"The discharge was sampled on August 18 and identified as untreated process industrial wastewater," according to the state's public posting about the spill. The pipe has been plugged and "[m]ill personnel are continuing to investigate the cause of the discharge," the state report says.
Records show officials suspect a crack or hole in a pipe is the cause of the problem.
Roger Thieken, the plant's technical director, said the paper recycling plant uses few chemicals and the water was mostly carrying fibers but refused to elaborate, referring requests to a corporate spokesman.
The spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday morning.
The Missisquoi Bay in Lake Champlain, where the 173,000 of industrial wastewater ended up, is the most troubled section of the lake, with high phosphorus concentrations fueling potentially toxic cyanobacteria blooms.