OXFORD — The Department of Environmental Protection told SAD 17 officials they should evaluate an aboveground oil tank at the Paris Elementary School as soon as possible due to evidence of “severe” corrosion on its supports.

Additionally, the DEP has recommended Oxford Hills School District officials develop and implement spill, prevention, control and countermeasure plans for above ground oil storage tanks and containers in district facilities. The plans, which district officials say were never developed, are required under federal law because of the volume of oil stored.

The recommendations were detailed in a 12-page DEP report released to school officials Wednesday following an inspection and evaluation of a sampling of the school district’s oil storage facilities on Feb. 20.

Superintendent Rick Colpitts said action is underway to implement the DEP recommendations. It is unclear how much it will cost.

The inspection of oil storage facilities at the Paris Elementary School, Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris, Hebron Station School and the district bus garage in Norway was prompted by the accidental discharge of more than 1,500 gallons of oil at the Hebron school on Christmas Day.

State environmental officials are still cleaning the majority of the oil that crept into nearby wetlands and caused the closure of the school for more than a week. A C.N. Brown Co. oil truck driver accidentally overfilled a 3,000-gallon oil tank.

Officials said due to a vacuum air leak in the fuel gauge, the driver continued to pump oil because the gauge read empty. It overflowed, leaving up to a foot of oil on the tank room floor underneath the building. The room emptied of oil within six hours.

The spill prompted DEP officials to offer the district an inspection of similar oil tanks and vaults in the district. Each of the three schools surveyed has its oil tank in “bunker” rooms that were presumed secure before the Christmas Day oil spill, school officials have said.

In addition to the Hebron oil tank, the DEP surveyed two 10,000-gallon above ground oil tanks at the high school and one 11,400-gallon above ground oil tank at the Paris Elementary School.

According to their report, DEP inspectors have advised officials to install an audible and visual high level alarm that is obvious to the oil delivery driver at the point of filling in all the school district oil tanks.

In addition, the DEP has recommended that school officials:

* Evaluate containment rooms with American Concrete Institute standards, including design, compatible concrete coating and joint sealant;

* Determine ventilation requirements and the fire rating of the room’s roof;

* Terminate the emergency vent (inside or outside of the enclosure), provide leak detection and review the confined space entry.

According to the report, school officials should evaluate the design of the Paris Elementary School’s oil tank because the containment vault has a history of groundwater infiltration that has caused premature floor and tank staining from rust.

State officials have recommended the tank be evaluated by a certified Steel Tank Institute inspector to determine whether it is suitable to remain in service and to find immediate ways to stop water from flowing into the tank room.

Inspectors said there is no berm between the vault access location and the boiler room, allowing liquids to reach the boiler room floor.

According to the report, DEP inspectors also observed rust staining the boiler room floor and the tank vault floor and severe corrosion on the oil tank supports. The room and oil tank were put in place about 2007 when the school was constructed.

The inspectors said they were unable to make definite conclusions about the tank condition because there is no clearance between the floor and the tank bottom.

Additionally, the district has been told to make sure the vault is a vault as defined by the National Fire Protection Association or to determine if it is a dedicated tank room or enclosure. The determination will affect the requirements of the room for ventilation, fire rating on the roof, termination of the emergency vent and leak detection requirements, the DEP said.

At bus garage on Brown Street, inspectors viewed the condition of a 12,000-gallon underground oil storage tank and above ground oil storage, including six tanks that hold 1,000 gallons or less and four 55-gallon oil drums.

Inspectors said they observed evidence of oil spills that had not been properly cleaned up, evidence of overfills, no secondary containment for a small oil tank, oil staining that appears to be penetrating cinder block seams and more.

The DEP has recommended the district correct all evidence of past oil spills and develop a plan for spill prevention as soon as possible. They have also advised officials to provide secondary containment for some of the oil tanks.

The report made no observations on conditions at the high school, but recommended the same oil storage tank evaluations as at the other facilities.

Colpitts said the district is in the process of contacting some of the engineers provided by the DEP to develop plans for the school facilities.

Additionally, school officials are setting up oil tank inspections by a Steel Tank Institute inspector to develop remediation steps, if recommended.  

“We will continue to work with the DEP and local agencies to insure our oil storage facilities are safe for the students, staff and communities they serve,” Colpitts said.

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