September 26, 2012

Fuel oil spills in Strand Theater basement


---- — PLATTSBURGH — The Strand Theater was evacuated Tuesday after hundreds of gallons of fuel oil spilled into the basement.

City of Plattsburgh Assistant Fire Chief Randy Stone said a salvage group removing pipes accidently disconnected two fuel lines from two 250-gallon tanks, and the fuel oil flowed onto both the cement and dirt floors.

Contractors working in the Brinkerhoff Street theater found the spill Tuesday morning and called the City Fire Department.

The fuel oil mixed with water on the floor and some flowed into the basement’s sump-pump hole, said Eric Day, director of the Clinton County Office of Emergency Services. It was discharged into the city’s sanitary sewer system, he said in a release.

“A contractor working on site apparently unplugged the sump pump to contain the oil,” he said, “but it was uncertain how long the pump was running or how much oil had been discharged.”

The City of Plattsburgh was notified, Stone said. It was monitoring the sewage and would treat it for contamination. 

Day estimated the entire spill, from the building’s retired heating-system storage tanks, totaled between 200 and 400 gallons.


It wasn’t a big incident, he said, but there would be heavy-duty cleanup inside the building. 

The State Department of Environmental Conservation initiated the effort with Strand Restoration Project architect Fred Keil.

Leigh Mundy, president of the North Country Cultural Center for the Arts Board of Directors, said Tuesday afternoon that much of the cleanup had taken place, though the DEC would return today to complete the effort.

“So we’re back to normal,” she said.

The Cultural Center owns the Strand and is overseeing the $4 million project to revive the theater to its former elegance and transform it into the Strand Performing Arts Center. The work is funded by grants and donations, and many volunteers have contributed elbow grease to move the project along.


The odor from the fuel oil was the only major impact on Tuesday morning, and there was no danger to the public, authorities said.

Clinton County Health Department Director of Environmental Health John Kanoza said the smell would decrease in strength as the cleanup ensued.

People “might notice an odor but nothing long term,” he said.

Also responding on Tuesday were the Clinton County Hazardous Materials Response Team, Plattsburgh City Police and City EMS.

— News Editor Suzanne Moore contributed to this report.