Darien addressing fuel tank issues at schools
A recent check of the underground fuel tanks at Middlesex Middle School, Darien High School, Tokeneke Elementary School and Hindley Elementary School found environmental compliance issues that would need to be addressed in the near future.
The fuel tanks are equipped with electronic monitoring sensors which should be serviced on a yearly basis to ensure they are functioning properly, said Michael Lynch, director of district facilities and operations.
"All underground storage tanks which hold petroleum products and are larger than a certain size (1,100 gallons) are subject to Federal and State Statutory requirements. These tanks have to be registered, inspected and tested," Lynch said in a report to the Board of Education.
Lynch said all seven tanks at each of the schools was inspected in October to update incorrect information on the registration forms. Additional tests also were performed on the electronic monitoring systems and the tightness of the tanks, the report said. It was at that time the problems with the tanks at the high school and two middle schools was discovered.
"The way the tank was put into the ground there is a small tube to drain water into where the tank probes are located. When it's overfilled with oil it shorts out the systems," Lynch said.
BOE member Morgan Whittier was surprised the system at the high school already needed to be replaced because the system was still relatively new.
"That's a new building. Why does the system need to be replaced already," Whittier asked.
Lynch said the systems tend to flood with water, but reassured Whittier the tanks wouldn't move as a result of flooding unless under extreme circumstances.
"Those tanks won't move unless you have catastrophic flooding," he said.
BOE member Clara Sartori asked when the systems would need to be replaced and assumed it would have to be done as quickly as possible.
"The Department of Environmental Protection sets guidelines for when a tank is tested and a report is made to them. They come back to us and tell us what we have to do. They have not gotten back to us so I'm assuming they haven't gotten back to contractor, so I'm not sure what direction we are going," Lynch said.
Even thought the district will be responsible for funding the necessary fixes to the three tanks with electronic monitoring systems, Lynch said both systems at Tokeneke and Middlesex are repairable. However, he said the high school's system will have to be replaced. In addition, a test at Hindley found a leak which would require a fix.
"It's the lines going into the building with fuel or at the valve that is used to isolate the lines," Lynch said of the tank at Hindley. "They did not keep the vacuum. They use sonar-type equipment to listen to the noise it makes. They said it wasn't making a noise a leaky tank would make but it was more a leaky pipe noise."
Lynch was unclear about how much the repairs and replacement system would cost and said he would have a better idea when the DEP gives him more information.