On Fuel Tank Leak, Remediation Cost Unclear
NEWINGTON - Less than 24 hours before sitting down with the Town Manager, Mayor and Council in an almost 3 hour executive session, the Board of Education voted unanimously to greenlight the razing of the bus garage for the purpose of smoothening the ongoing diesel fuel tank leak remediation on Garfield Street near Willard Avenue.

       The two parties emerged from the session with Town Manager Tanya Lane stating that other options would be considered, but that having the Board’s blessing on a potential demolition provides the Town with more flexibility. The meeting was a broader based attempt to collaborate on handling the situation-between 15,000 and 19,000 gallons of released diesel fuel and the ongoing removal of over 6,000 tons of contaminated soil.

       “It was a good session,” said Mayor Roy Zartarian. “Yes, we butted heads, but in the end I think we started to think alike in how we could move forward for the betterment of the town.”

       Details as to what they initially butted heads over were not disclosed, but the session was billed as a discussion regarding a “personnel matter”. The Council, the night before, voted unanimously to approve a $5 million ceiling for bonding for the remediation and monitoring, as well as the hiring of a private investigator to determine the cause of the leak.

       The update provided in the public portion dealt mostly with the timeline of events-filled in with even greater detail than what was provided in the previous night’s Council meeting.

       Lane said that the leak, when brought to the attention of staff on November 27, prompted Facilities Director David Langdon to enlist excavation contractors to begin the cleanup. The matter was complicated when contractors struck a storm that, because of its age, was not accounted for on maps.

       Diesel fuel began to pour from the hole in the storm drain, prompting a state official on hand to call the Department of Environmental and Energy Protection (DEEP) to the scene, Lane said. The state agency has been working with the town since.

       “This is a money pit,” Lane said. “It will cost us millions of dollars.”

       How many, rests partly with Chubb-the insurance subcontractor with CIRMA. The Town can have up to two $1 million incidents covered, and is in the process of filing paperwork through staff and Town Attorney Ben Ancona to make their case.

       “The claim hasn’t been accepted or rejected,” she said. “We’re still working with them.”

       The presence of diesel fuel in groundwater may draw the State of Connecticut-which owns it-in as a third party claim, Lane said.

       She hopes that the remediation work will not prompt work on the heavily frequented Garfield Street, but that has yet to be determined.

       “It’s not a decision I want to make lightly, and I’m hoping it’s not necessary,” Lane said.

       What they do know is that there is a presence of diesel fuel release in the road-to about the halfway point across-but they’ll have to see how deep its penetrated, she said.

       Should the cleanup process reach Garfield, the $5 million bonding limit approved by the Council was designed to include that cost as well, said Town Attorney Ben Ancona Monday.

       As for the bus garage, Ancona said that the option is to not take the whole thing down, but just the affected areas.

       “It would probably cost more to do it that way,” he said.

       He said a good analogy is the cost of renovating a building within and around existing walls, as opposed to a demolish and start anew approach.

       Meanwhile, the Board and Council will form a joint subcommittee for the purpose of relaying information more quickly.

       “I’ve heard from residents that the community wants the Board and Council to work together more, so I’m pleased to have this opportunity,” said Board Vice Chair Emily Guion.

       “I’m glad we’re working together,” said Councilor Tim Manke. “It’s our town, and it’s our hole, so we’re going to have to take care of it.”