EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

June 6, 2014

Flame retardant from plane crash foams up in Andover

ANDOVER — Flame retardant used to douse a burning plane at Hanscom Field in Bedford on Saturday night has floated down the Shawsheen River and appeared at the Ballardvale dam, where huge piles of light, white, fluffy foam formed over the rocks and floated into the air Tuesday and Wednesday.

Yesterday afternoon, pockets of it remained and small pieces continued to float into the air around the dam, located just north of the Andover Street bridge. Smaller pockets of foam were reported at the Stevens Street dam in Andover.

Environmental officials say the flame retardant used at the crash site floated down the river as “residuals” which aren’t visible unless the water gets stirred up, which is what happened due to the turbulence of the water at the base of the dams. However, it presents no environmental or health threat, they said.

But it certainly created a curiosity.

Charlie MacNeil, co-owner of Andover Hardware, an industrial supply company with an office on the river, said he saw it Wednesday afternoon and assumed it was created by dish soap thrown into the river.

“It was like someone had a bubble-maker,” he said. “It was floating up into the air.”

He said a fisherman who had waded into the river was enveloped by the foam as he cast his line.

“He was surrounded by it,” he said. “It was interesting to see.”

The fire-retardant foam was used to douse the flames Saturday night in a plane crash that killed seven people. At 9:40 p.m., the Gulfstream IV aircraft was attempting to take off from Hanscom but apparently never left the ground. Instead, it hurtled off the runway, across a field and into a ravine where it exploded into flames. Federal officials are continuing to investigate the cause of the crash.

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