Fuel oil leak shuts sewer plant
DALMATIA - A broken pressure gauge is to blame for 1,250 gallons of fuel oil leaking from the former Dalmatia Elementary School into the Lower Mahanoy Township Municipal Authority wastewater treatment plant on Monday.
A cleanup that continued into its third day Wednesday has shut down the plant, with some 30,000 gallons of sewage daily having to be trucked away until it can restart.
Crews from the Northridge Group, Northumberland, have been working to remove the fuel, empty the tanks and clean the system, plant manager Rick Spotts said Wednesday.
No water sources or soil were contaminated, according to a state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) spokesman.
"We are pleased with the authority's response to this incident." said Daniel Spadoni, community relations coordinator for DEP's North Central Regional Office, Williamsport.
Line Mountain School District will not face any penalties, he said.
But the district has seen a lot of money literally go down the drain. In addition to what reached the sewer system, about 100 to 200 gallons was found in the school basement. Figuring 1,400 gallons lost, at a current average price of about $3.91 a gallon, that's nearly $5,500.
And, the district may have to pay for the cleanup.
The sewer plant, located at 132 River Road near the
Susquehanna River, about a half-mile from the school, has been closed since 8:30 a.m. Monday when the breach was discovered, Spotts said. But service has not been disrupted for the township's 234 wastewater customers.
"Anything coming into us is being hauled away until we can get the plant back online," he said.
Spadoni provided a copy of report filed by DEP water quality specialist Stephen D. Puzio that says the heating oil leaked from a supply line to a basement sanitary sewage sump, which pumped it into the collection system.
Apparently, a broken pressure gauge on the supply line caused the boilers to fail, and the oil leaked onto the floor and ran into the sump.
The school district recently received a delivery of fuel, Puzio said.
No evidence of contamination was discovered in local water systems, including the river, but detection equipment was placed as a precaution, Puzio said.
According to the report, Spotts immediately shut down the pump station and both sequencing batch reactor (SBR) pumps to prevent discharge of the oil to the receiving stream.
DEP water quality specialist John Springer conducted the initial investigation Monday morning and afternoon, but the district's involvement in the leak was not known until Monday night.
Discharges from the sewer plant have not occurred since Monday morning, Puzio confirmed.
The majority of liquid from the second SBR was pumped into the first SBR with overnight flow emptying into the second SBR, and equipment was placed at the overflow to catch the product, according to the report.
Line Mountain School District solicitor Rich Roberts said the district is actively investigating how the leak occurred.
Both insurance providers for the district and the authority have been notified of a possible claim.
Board President Troy Laudenslager said the insurance provider will likely conduct its own investigation.
"It was an unfortunate accident on a piece of equipment," he said Wednesday.
Whether the district is responsible for the financial burden has not been discussed, authority solicitor William Swinehart said.
"At this point, we have to determine what the cleanup cost will be, and then we'll go from there. Right now, we're still trying to solve the problem," he said.
The fact that the public is not in danger, no discharge contaminated the local water sources and no violations have been issued against the authority are what's important, Swinehart said.
Puzio said the authority must submit a follow-up letter once the cleanup is complete.
The authority's public meeting set for tonight was rescheduled until 7 p.m. March 13 due to this incident and the impending snowstorm.
Dalmatia and Leck Kill elementary schools were closed before the 2013-14 school year as part of an overall district consolidation plan. The school board intends to sell the buildings.