Dalmatia fuel oil discovery came just in time
DALMATIA - Had Rick Spotts discovered it just 15 minutes later, 1,250 gallons of home heating oil would have been discharged into the Susquehanna River from the Lower Mahanoy Township Municipal Authority wastewater treatment plant.
Instead, Spotts was plowing snow at the plant he manages on the morning of Feb. 10 and smelled the fuel oil. When he investigated and discovered it was inside the treatment basins, he immediately closed down the plant and locked the valves.
Approximately every 2 1/2 hours, the system automatically opens valves and discharges the treated wastewater into the river. The levels were high enough for such a discharge 15 minutes after Spotts found it.
"It was dumb luck," he said Monday.
The fuel oil entered the sewer system from Dalmatia Elementary about a half-mile away when a gauge on a tank broke. Eight days later, the plant is not yet fully operational, but it is processing all of the approximately 30,000 gallons of sewage it takes in per day and discharging it, Spotts said. The fuel oil has been removed.
It's still undetermined when it will be back at 100 percent, with a second basin still not online. Spotts was expecting three loads of new "seed" to restart the second basin, but the impending snowfall may delay that delivery, he said.
Service at the sewer plant, located at 132 River Road, was never disrupted for the 234 customers as the incoming waste was hauled away by truck. Spotts said he hadn't taken any complaint calls since the incident.
Crews from the Northridge Group, Northumberland, have been working to remove the fuel, empty the tanks and clean the system.
No water sources or soil were contaminated, and the district will not face any penalties, a DEP official said last week.
The price of cleanup and who is responsible has not yet been answered, Spotts said.
"I couldn't have done anything differently on my end. It was something that malfunctioned at the school's end," he said.
Insurance providers for the district and the authority have been notified of a possible claim.
Dalmatia was closed before the 2013-14 school year as part of an overall district consolidation plan. The school board intends to sell the building.
Gauge installed in Nov.
Spotts met with Northridge at the Dalmatia building to confirm that no more fuel was leaking into the sewer system.
Timothy Lagerman, the district's director of plant operations and maintenance, said Monday that Northridge removed the spilled fuel and disposed of items that were contaminated.
An additional 100 to 200 gallons of fuel that didn't enter the drain remained on the basement floor, according to DEP.
The sump pump and sewer pumps are off, and if there would be another leak, it won't spill into the municipal plant, Lagerman said.
The pressure gauge to blame for the leak was purchased in November, and Lagerman said he's still not sure what went wrong to cause the problem.
Northridge has been in the building several times to scrub the floors, and a fan is venting vapors, he said.
A public meeting at the authority will be held at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the office located adjacent to the treatment facility at 132 River Road.