BY LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — TICONDEROGA — When fuel oil began gushing from a pipe at the Ticonderoga Town Highway Department garage, someone closed a valve and cleaned it up.
But no one told the State Department of Environmental Conservation, the agency to which a spill of 5 gallons or more must be reported.
“The spill was 20 to 30 gallons,” Ticonderoga Town Supervisor Debra Malaney said. “It wasn’t reported for about 15 days, until someone called the DEC spill tip-line.”
The town is now facing fines of up to $37,000 a day for each day the spill at the Racetrack Road facility was not reported.
“We’re hoping the fine isn’t that high,” Malaney said. “The highway superintendent, Mike Parent, wasn’t there when it happened. No one knew it had to be reported. They just cleaned it up.”
In 2010, the town was fined $11,000 and had to pay about $250,000 to clean up contaminated soil at a dry well behind the town highway garage and at the town’s salt pile.
The problem was discovered by a DEC inspector investigating a 2-gallon fuel spill at the garage. The state worker 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 discovered in the soil around the garage.
The town paid to have 1,000 tons of contaminated soil removed and disposed of, to connect the floor drain to the public wastewater system and to upgrade the fuel storage area.
The latest spill occurred when heating oil was being transferred from a 1,000-gallon outside tank to a 250-gallon inside tank.
A valve was left unattended, and oil overflowed to the concrete garage floor, Malaney said.
“It was a small spill,” she said. “Our highway workers were unaware they had to report it.”
She said the town cooperated with the investigation.
“We’re going to be fined,” Malaney said. “We know that for certain. They haven’t told us how much. We’re waiting to hear from the DEC right now.”
Contacted by the Press-Republican at his Ray Brook office, DEC Region 5 spokesman David Winchell didn’t have any information on what the outcome will be.
Malaney said they’ve talked with DEC to stress there was no intent to hide anything and that it was simply a case of not knowing the reporting regulations.
Parent has now instructed highway workers about proper spill procedures, she said, and the town will install safety devices to prevent further accidents.
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