BY LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — TICONDEROGA — The Town of Ticonderoga has been fined $86,500 for an oil spill at its Highway Department garage, with all but $40,000 suspended if it takes steps to prevent future incidents.
The spill of up to 60 gallons of home-heating fuel in February was not reported to the State Department of Environmental Conservation for 15 days, which prompted an investigation and now the fine.
Any spill of more than 5 gallons must be reported to the DEC, but Ticonderoga Town Supervisor Debra Malaney said the members of the highway crew who allowed the oil to spill said they were not aware of that requirement.
The oil was simply cleaned up, she said, but then an anonymous complaint was made to the State DEC Spill Tip Line.
SEEN AS FAIR
DEC could have fined the town up to $37,000 a day for each day the spill was not reported, Malaney said, so she believes the penalty imposed was fair.
“The fine will come out of the town general fund, and highway budget line items will be reduced. The Highway Department will be able to stay within its budget (for the year).”
The spill occurred as heating oil was being transferred from a 1,000-gallon outside tank to a 250-gallon inside tank. A valve was left unattended, allowing oil to overflow to the concrete garage floor, Malaney said.
She said no one has been fired or disciplined for the spill, but there will be mandatory environmental safety training for all Highway Department employees.
“There will be an extreme focus on safety training, with spill response featured in that,” Malaney said. “We are taking care of it as completely and thoroughly as we possibly can.”
DEC sent the town a 19-page report of its findings along with the notice of the fine of $86,500, she said.
“The DEC would agree to suspend the remaining $46,500 of the fine on the condition that the town complies with the terms of the order,” she said. “They have a list of eight.”
She said the requirements include creating a secondary containment area for spills, plugging the floor drains at the highway garage, providing engineering plans for an above-ground oil-separation facility and sand trap at the garage and doing any ordered cleanup remediation.
Ticonderoga Town Highway Superintendent Michael Parent said the outside oil-storage tank and the surrounding area must be checked for past spills.
‘We have to pull the old (oil) tank out and test the ground. Everything has been done except the tank. We’re doing that now.
“We have to have spill kits in the garage and for the equipment.”
Parent, who was not at the garage when the spill occurred, said he agrees with DEC’s report.
“Many of the things it recommends we are already doing,” he said.
This is the second time in the last three years that the town has been fined for spills at the highway garage on Racetrack Road.
In 2010, Ticonderoga paid a penalty of $11,000 and had to clean up contaminated soil at a dry well behind the highway garage and at the town’s winter salt pile.
In that incident, a DEC inspector found an old drain in the garage floor that led to a dry well outside the garage.
Although the drain and dry well dated from when the highway garage was built in 1953 and had not been used for decades, contamination was found in the soil around the garage.
The town was forced to pay about $250,000 to have 1,000 tons of contaminated soil removed and disposed of at a facility in western New York.
Malaney said the fines this time could have been more than $500,000, and she appreciates the leniency DEC showed them.
“It (the fine) could have been much worse. But this is still something we cannot allow to happen. We are taking steps to make sure it does not ever happen again.”
Email Lohr McKinstry:email@example.com