Bus garage fuel spill cleanup could wind up costing millions of dollars

Published on Tuesday, 23 January 2018 17:19
Written by Erica Schmitt

Staff Writer

NEWINGTON - Costs to mitigate a fuel spill in the area of Mill Brook are believed to be in the millions of dollars, town officials said this week.

Cleanup of the underground leak at the town’s school bus garage on Garfield Street has been ongoing since it was first discovered on Dec. 27. Town facilities staff is working on the situation with crews from the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Aegis Inc. and Connecticut Tank Removal.

“It was a significant release but it has been contained,” said town Attorney Ben Ancona, who has been charged with communicating with the public on the matter.

Town officials are hoping to secure insurance funds to pay contractors, who have been working weekdays to clean up the spill.

“It may be an emergency borrowing situation,” Ancona said. “Initial estimates are in the millions.”

It’s been about a decade since an underground fuel tank that serviced the bus garage was replaced by a new above-ground tank. The leak occurred from a hole in the 25-foot section of underground fuel line connecting the newer tank to the building’s dispenser.

“We’re not really sure how much time has elapsed since the breach occurred,” Ancona pointed out. “It could be as much as a year. Town officials thought any potential for something like this was alleviated when they pulled the tank out of the ground 10 years ago. Frankly, no one thought the fuel line underground would crack. It was a significant surprise to everyone.”

The scent of diesel fumes was indicated by a neighbor a few days after Christmas. That individual notified the town, which responded immediately.

School bus drivers have been refueling their vehicles at the town’s highway department on Milk Lane as the cleanup continues. Officials estimate it will take crews several more months to finish the job. In the meantime, traffic on Garfield Street where town offices are located may be limited to one lane during daytime hours.

Homeowners in the area should not be concerned about contamination of their properties, according to officials.

“Everyone’s safe; no wells are impacted,” Ancona said. “Most of the fuel is right there on-site.”

The extent of contamination has yet to be fully determined, but workers believe that diesel fuel from the breach spread at least a half-mile in the area of Mill Brook, which feeds into nearby Piper Brook. Recreational use of Mill Pond in the park across the roadway hasn’t been impacted, officials say. The pond, a popular place for fishing and ice-skating, feeds into Mill Brook.

Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or eschmitt@centralctcommunications.com.

Posted in Newington Town Crier, Newington News on Tuesday, 23 January 2018 17:19. Updated: Tuesday, 23 January 2018 17:22.