“With the rain and warm temps, this has been a key week for Hebron,” DEP spokeswoman Jessamine Logan said. “Our attention is focused now on the collection of the oil in the wetland.” 

State and, more recently, federal environmental officials have been on site since late December, recovering as much as they could of the oil that spilled from the school’s tank room on Dec. 25 and seeped through discharged pipes into nearby wetlands.

The oil leaked out of the school basement tank as it was being filled by a driver from the C.N. Brown oil company of Paris. A total of 192 gallons was recovered from the wetlands next to the school by sorbent pads, but most was captured in ice and snow in an area about the size of a football field.

Although environmental officials have been on site almost daily for the past 3½ months, recovery of the oil could not start while it was frozen. With the warmer temperatures and melting of the ice, the oil is now being absorbed in the pads at a much higher rate, Logan said.

“We are changing the sorbent pads three times a week and will adjust the schedule as necessary,” Logan said.

On Monday, a triple-layer filter-fence containment area was set up around the perimeter of the spill site using 76 hay bales at the base of the wetlands. Logan said each bale is double-staked to the ground and a layer of sorbent boom has been placed in front of each tier.

“We are confident that the containment areas will contain any recoverable oil from that wetland,” she said.

She said an sorbent boom was placed at the inlet and outlet of the railroad bed pass-through and pads were placed in front of the sections of boom.

“This adds a fourth and fifth layer of protection between the oiled wetland and Bog Brook, which has been such a concern to the residents,” Logan said.

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

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have reviewed the spill and the plans to clean it up.

School officials closed the school for more than a week after the spill. The gymnasium, which is next to the oil-tank room, was closed for two months while state environmental and school officials monitored the air quality. DEP officials said the school’s well water is not contaminated, and is monitored monthly.

Stephen Flannery, a DEP oil and hazardous materials specialist, has warned that once the oil is exposed to air as the snow melts, it will smell.

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