HEBRON — Owners of properties abutting wetlands affected by a 1,950-gallon oil spill at the Hebron Station School say time will tell if the December spill will impact them.

“I’m not concerned at this point, but I’m just going to wait to see,” Davis Packard, who owns the Station Road farm that abuts the wetlands, said.

The school property was originally part of the Packard Farm. The family sold it to the school district a dozen years ago.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Protection said Friday that an estimated 1,700 gallons of oil is in wooded wetlands on the school property.

“The oil is contained in the wooded wetland, which we are keeping a close eye on,” Jessamine Logan, DEP’s director of communications, said. “If the oil leaves the school property, then we will contact the property owner directly.”

The oil leaked out of the school basement tank Dec. 25 as it was being filled by a driver from C.N. Brown oil company in Paris.

A DEP response team has placed absorbent pads in the wetlands to soak up the the oil, which is partially visible as a reddish-pinkish tint in the snow. Logan said the pads will absorb what oil they can until the spring, when efforts can be made to remove the oil.

Logan said DEP officials do not believe any abutters’ wells are in jeopardy. The closest well to the spill serves the school and has tested clean. It’s being monitored but not being used by students and staff.

“If we have any reason to believe that the oil is impacting an abutter’s well, we would take appropriate steps to ensure that their water would be safe to use,” she said. Those steps would be first to install filters, and then determine whether a new well could be drilled, she said.

Davis Packard said there are two streams that run from the school property into the wetland area. He fears one or both could eventually carry the oil onto his property.

While the family’s well is near the road and therefore not a great concern at this time,  Packard said he is concerned about his animals who graze in upper pasture land next to the affected wetlands. In the spring, the animals will be put in a lower pasture to graze.

The Packards said the DEP has not contacted them about the contamination, but if the oil moves, it will probably impact their land.

“It would come this way. It’s downhill,” Davis’ mother, 83-year-old Jeanette Packard, said. She has lived on the farm since 1949 and has a vegetable garden next to the wetlands.

Davis Packard said the wetlands are no more than 300 yards from Bog Brook on the easterly side of the school and his farm. DEP officials say presently there is no threat to Bog Brook. 

An abandoned railroad bed lies between the school property and wetlands that flow directly into the nearby Bog Brook. The brook flows under Station Road into Minot and Mechanic Falls and empties into the Little Androscoggin River.

DEP officials also do not believe that Bicknell Brook, which flows under Station Road on the westerly side of the school, will be affected because it is uphill from the spill.

Logan said people will be able to see the exact location of the oil on maps being developed for a second public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, at the school at 84 Station Road.

Digging the oil out of the snow and ice would cause more harm to the environment, Logan said.

“…If we go in there with equipment and people, we will drive the oil into subsurface locations where natural processes will be limited or nonexisting, resulting in greater damage to the environment and the oil persisting longer,” she said in an email to the Sun Journal. “There has already been damage to the area, which we do not want to make worse.”

Air quality test results

As work continues outside the school to contain the oil,  DEP officials are continuing to monitor the air quality in the school.

Recent tests on the gymnasium area, which is still closed to students and staff, showed Friday there has been little improvement in that area, which is next to the oil tank room.

SAD 17 Superintendent Rick Colpitts said the air quality readings in the gymnasium are within the acceptable level for indoor concentration but because the numbers for naphthalene are slightly elevated, school officials are choosing to keep the gymnasium off limits until the levels go down.

Work is underway to clean the oil tank room and use a sealant on the walls to prevent the fumes from going into the gymnasium.

All other tested areas throughout the school showed the same or lower acceptable levels, Colpitts said.

The classrooms have the lowest readings of indoor air concentration, he said.

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