HEBRON — Most of the oil from a 1,900-gallon spill in late December at Hebron Station School leached into wetlands, according to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The oil leaked out of the school basement tank Dec. 25 as it was being filled by a driver from the C.N. Brown oil company. The accident forced about 135 elementary school students to be relocated to Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris until this past week.

DEP officials said the oil does not pose a threat to nearby Bog Brook, which flows downstream into Minot and Mechanic Falls.

“It’s nowhere near the brook,” DEP spokeswoman Jessamine Logan said Thursday.

Air-quality readings, which have been done at the school gymnasium to determine whether elevated air contaminants have diminished, are expected to be released Friday, Logan said.

Principal Melanie Ellsworth said students would not use the gymnasium until air-quality tests are clear.

The spill occurred soon after midnight on Dec. 25, when the school lost power and the boilers failed. According to a timeline developed by school officials, Hebron Station School lost power and generators were brought in near midnight on Dec. 25. The boilers failed and the gauge indicated the tank was empty. Oil delivery was arranged.

C.N. Brown pumped 136 gallons into the tank before the whistle stopped blowing, indicating the tank was full. The gauge continued to show the tank was empty. According to the school’s timeline, the C.N. Brown driver pumped additional fuel as he watched the vent pipe to indicate overflow.

More than 1,950 gallons were pumped into the tank and no oil came out of the vent pipe. A relief valve on the tank opened and allowed much of the excess oil to vent into the tank room. The driver reported to an unnamed person that he would contact a supervisor and arrange for removal of the oil.

On Dec. 26, according to the timeline, the oil company called to see if the school needed oil. District employees asked when they would be in to clean up the oil. The company dispatcher said they were unaware of the spill.

On Dec. 27, school employees called Maine DEP to report the spill and the missing oil. DEP arrived that day.

On Jan. 2, school officials reported that about 1,800 gallons of oil were unaccounted for, but some oil was found in the nearby wetlands and mopped up. On Jan. 6, officials reported the oil was found under the slab of the school’s oil-tank room. On Jan. 14, DEP officials reported the oil had disappeared again. They told people at a public forum they believed it had moved from beneath the slab.

On Thursday, they acknowledged that the oil had moved into the wetlands, in part through an outlet drain pipe leading to the area. Blotches of pink oil could be seen in the snow and ice, the DEP’s Logan said.

She said the response team would not dig up the snow or ice to remove the oil because it might be more harmful than leaving it. Absorbent pads were placed in the wetlands when oil first was discovered there. Logan said it was difficult to say how much oil is being removed through the pads.

SAD 17 Superintendent Rick Colpitts has said school officials were assured by C.N. Brown at the beginning of the crisis that someone would be back immediately to pump the spilled oil from the containment room, but that never happened. The room emptied of oil within six hours, he said.

“By the time we were called, oil all drained out of the room through a seam in the foundation wall and floor,” Logan said. “We wern’t notified until the 27th.”

If DEP had been notified earlier, Logan said, “We might have been able to take additional steps to prevent it from going into the wetlands.”

Although no contamination has been found in the school’s well, it remains off limits. Students and staff are drinking bottled water supplied by Poland Spring and Walmart.

[email protected]

Public meeting called

HEBRON — Officials from SAD 17 and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection have agreed to a second public meeting to update residents on a nearly 2,000-gallon oil spill at Hebron Station School last month.

The follow-up community forum will be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, at Hebron Station School. The meeting will provide people with an update on the cleanup effort and give people another opportunity to speak with representatives from the DEP who are overseeing the cleanup operations, Superintendent Rick Colpitts said.

Hebron Selectman Jim Reid said people want to know how the spill happened and what officials have done so it won’t happen again.

Reid said the board has developed questions they want answered at the upcoming forum. They include an explanation of how oil spills work (what happens when oil gets in the ground), where the oil is under the ground; where, how and when the oil is likely to surface; what can be done to clean it up; and the environmental impacts of both the cleanup and the oil that can’t be cleaned up.

“(Hebron Station School) is really the pride of Hebron,” Reid said. “Now there’s a question mark forever. I think we’ve been running our town very efficiently. We have no debt. People want to live in our town. We run a pretty tight ship. Now we have a black mark on our soul. We’ll get through it. It’s all we can do.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.