A display of anonymous public art floated into town the other day. It was not by Believe In People (BIP). It wasn’t even on a wall. It was both pretty and smelly.
Then it was gone.
The evanescent public art appeared late last Friday afternoon at low tide when several slicks of gasoline washed ashore at Oyster Cove Condominiums on the western shore of the Quinnipiac River in Fair Haven.
The slicks were not unattractive. The blue-ish, purple and yellow colors glistened with an iridescence not unlike the wings of starlings but gaudier and undulating across the surface of the water beneath the late afternoon sun.
You could be forgiven for thinking that a pinkish sky by the great 18th century Italian colorist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo had met a deep, threatening cloud.
Several of the slicks had floated into the the rectangular enclaves formed by the finger docks of the condominium complex at a wide point in the Quinnipiac River about 50 yards north of the Grand Avenue Bridge.
Only one power boat had been docked at these moorings and nearby, and that was gone months ago.
This particular art smelled. I was alarmed that it might be on display all along the Q River.
I was taking my yellow Pungo (pictured) out for a paddle and assumed the gasoline or oil—or both—was being leaked from one of the fishing boats anchored along their Front Street piers or from some of the pleasure boats at the venerable Waucoma Yacht Club or the Fair Haven Marina a short distance upriver.
I decided to check.
As I paddled up from the condos, however, the slicks and their odor disappeared almost immediately.
I hailed someone who was working on one of the fishing boats and asked if there had been a leak in his boat, the little fishing fleet or nearby.
He said his boat had no problem. Then he added, “A boat sank upriver.”
He too knew about the slick. “It’s not much,” he said.
I continued to paddle upriver and indeed, it wasn’t much.
The tide was low. All along the marina that I came to, and then further up at the Dover Beach (pictured) shore, there was no sign of a slick. Whatever had been leaked was small. Yet it had pooled by the condominiums in a slick of sufficient size also to stink.
I was out of town for the rest of the weekend. When I returned, the slick was all gone, and the air returned to his normal, er, loveliness
Monday afternoon I called the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), which has a spillage hotline.
I was put in touch with Cynda Chanaca a communications officer with DEEP’s Oil & Chemical Spill Division. She also checked on whether any boats had sunk in the river.
Tuesday afternoon, she wrote by email: “We have no record of recent spills or discharges.”
The river was back to normal, and yet it had happened. The oil art had floated by and then was gone, evanescent. One wonders how many small leakages go unreported and unviewed.
A little like art.