Poor Pump Maintenance Contributed to Large Newington Fuel Leak: Expert

The results of an investigation into a large fuel spill in Newington late last year were released at a meeting Tuesday night, and according to the findings of the independent expert the town brought in, the whole mess could likely have been avoided had someone just been paying attention.

Thousands of gallons of diesel fuel leaked in an underground vault at the Connecticut Board of Education bus garage on Garfield Street last December. It wasn’t discovered until a resident reported an odor to town officials.

“Quite frankly, it stinks. Literally and figuratively,” said Newington Mayor Roy Zartarian (R).

As many as 160 gallons of diesel fuel may have been leaking out per day by the time the spill was discovered, more than a year after it started.

“Late 2015 to late 2017 the Board of Ed had 142,000 gallons of diesel fuel delivered. According to the records from fuel master, they only dispensed 18,600,” explained Dr. Gordon Binkhorst, senior hydrogeologist at ALTA Environmental Corp.

The investigation found the leak originated from an eroded pump that carried fuel for Board of Education vehicles. Binkhorst told the council it appeared the pump was only minimally, if at all maintained, and there was virtually no proper accounting of the amount of fuel it carried.

“The operation of the tank system basically consisted of Board of Ed personnel periodically sticking the tank and ordering diesel fuel on an as-needed basis. They did not complete any routine inspections or maintenance of the tank system according to service records and interviews,” Binkhorst said.

Frustration about the enormous lapse and the money wasted on roughly 14,000 gallons of unused fuel was echoed by many residents at Tuesday night’s meeting.

“It should’ve been known easily when 50 gallons was missing. Instead we got thousands of gallons missing,” one resident complained.

The town has received $1.5 million from the state to cover some of the more than $2 million needed to fix the leak, and some of its environmental damage. But the total cost of the spill, or what will be done in response to all of this, is still unknown.

“Something simple should have been done and wasn’t and as a consequence, we have this environmental disaster on our hands,” Zartarian said.

The Town Council has no authority or jurisdiction over the personnel employed by the Board of education, so they aren’t in a position to terminate anyone or make changes that could have prevented this on a personnel level. But the mayor said the council hopes to sit down with the Board of Education and come up with a plan of action.

Contact Us