A leaking oil tank, one of two located on Village property near Village Hall, has left the Village Board holding their breath, wondering whether a simple cleanup effort could put a large dent in the Village’s wallet.
The tank was installed decades ago as a buried tank, a practice which is no longer employed. It is suspected that the tank’s integrity was compromised by groundwater in the area. In addition to groundwater damage, Village Mayor Tim Rogers believes that testing conducted by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) could have exacerbated the tank’s damaged condition. The other tank, owned by the Town, was also removed despite having no damage.
“It seems like the oil tank may have been a problem for several years,” Rogers said. “Our staff took a closer look more recently and we think it may be related to a pressure test done on the tank.”
The testing is done periodically to ensure that the tank is still holding oil, with the most recent of these tests being conducted on the tank in July.
Upon learning about the leak, the Village Board quickly contacted the DEC, who have been working with the Village to resolve the issue as quickly as possible and assess the damage caused by the leak.
The Village Board and Village Engineer drafted a Request For Proposal (RFP), which has been sent to the DEC for approval. The RFP is part of a standard procedure for Village projects and includes a list of the necessary steps for any given project. In the case of the tank, this includes the removal and disposal of the tank as well as any affected soil.
“All of it is pretty detail-prescribed remedies to the situation,” said Village Board Trustee KT Tobin. “The mayor is working with the DEC to make sure they inform us on what to do.”
Despite the procedures themselves being straightforward, the project is still clouded with uncertainty. The extent of the damage, for one, has yet to be determined.
“You don’t know until you dig,” Rogers said. “Maybe it’s a neat little section that we have to remove. We have an advantage in New Paltz because we have a lot of clay in our soil so if there’s an oil spill it might not have gone out too far.”
The Village is also investigating damage to adjacent properties such as the one, formerly know as the Pit, owned by Luis Martinez. Oil from the tank leaked into a storm drain on Martinez’s property.
“I’m mostly concerned about this thing costing the village a lot of money,” Rogers said. According to Rogers, during his first meeting with Michelle Tippel [of the DEC] she said that these things could cost between $5,000 and $500,000.
The wide range in remediation costs is due to the damage not yet being officially assessed, a process which is being held up by the standard procedures of the RFP and the DEC. The Village has an insurance policy worth up to $50,000 in damages that Rogers hopes will cover a majority of the remediation costs.
Once the RFP is processed and the damages are assessed, the project will enter a bidding process with third-party contractors to determine who will take on the job of remediation.
The Village will preemptively remove two other tanks, one located near the village’s water treatment plant and the other near the pump station, in an effort to avoid further issues with buried tanks.
The DEC, in a statement to The New Paltz Oracle, revealed that “there were no impacts to the drinking water in the communities.”
“The process, although it can be frustrating and time consuming, can be useful by having the DEC as the supervisor of the process,” Rogers said. “It’s good to have a regulator looking over our shoulders to make sure that we’re dotting Is and crossing Ts.”