NEWINGTON - The school bus garage fell victim to the fuel spill on Garfield Street, confirmed town officials, who are grappling with the aftermath of the ongoing situation.
At least 2½ bays of the garage were contaminated by the diesel breach discovered on Dec. 27, now estimated to have dispersed 15,000 to 19,000 gallons in the immediate area.
Over 6,000 tons of soil has been removed from the property, leaving a gaping hole at least 12 feet deep and undetermined remediation costs totaling in the millions of dollars.
Town Manager Tanya Lane shed light on the matter at a joint meeting of the Town Council and Board of Education recently.
“The bus garage is the area of concern at the moment,” Lane said. “No definitive decision on the structure has been made at this point.”
The Board of Education sanctioned the town to demolish the garage, if necessary.
“The board is prepared to do everything we need to do to give the town the flexibility it needs over that area in any shape or form,” Chairman Josh Shulman said.
School buses are now using the north lot at Newington High School as the clean-up continues. This has not had any impact on bus schedules, according to Town Attorney Ben Ancona.
“If it’s conclusively determined that those garage bays have to come down it’s probably less expensive to demolish the entire structure than try to engineer a new north wall,” Ancona said this week. “It’s likely the whole garage will come down.”
Crews continue to pump oil from the property and in a half-mile vicinity. An insurance claim currently being processed may ease the town’s financial burden.
“The most we’re going to get is probably $1 million, if they decide to cover us,” Lane said.
Councilors approved a resolution to appropriate $5 million in bonds to cover bills in the meantime.
“Aside from tax dollars there are no other funds to remedy this,” Mayor Roy Zartarian said. “It’s going to be an expensive matter to remedy.”
The town is ineligible for grant funding from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, because the spill occurred on municipal property. Town officials are, however, consulting with DEEP about diesel detected in the groundwater and beneath Garfield Street. The possibility of federal assistance has yet to be determined.
Local taxpayers are likely to bear some of the brunt, according to Ancona.
“An impact to the taxpayers is anticipated,” he said. “The impact will probably be seen in the next budget cycle.”
At Shulman’s suggestion, elected officials are expected to form a sub-committee to continue discussions.
“The encouraging part is that we’re working together,” Councilor Tim Manke said. “We’re all citizens of Newington and this is Newington’s problem.”
Contaminated soil is being processed at a plant in Plainville, where the fuel is burned out of it. Updates on the situation are expected in coming weeks.
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.