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Facilities Planning

Oil Spills - Leaking Tanks


Reference Guide #C.10

An oil spill requires immediate response in order to reduce environmental contamination. However, the response should be purposeful and consistent with law and regulation.

Education Department Facilities Planning staff have prompted the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to establish procedures for DEC officials to use when dealing with public schools that have sustained a spill. The DEC Guidelines for DEC staff are provided below for your information.

DEC Guidelines

  1. Upon becoming aware of an unpermitted release of petroleum, the school must notify the DEC on the Spill Hotline at (800) 457-7362 within two (2) hours.
    1. The DEC spill response staff will advise the district on what immediate measures are needed to eliminate the source of the leak or spill (i.e. pump out storage tank, isolate line leaks, etc.).
    2. Advise the district to contact Carl Thurnau of the Office of Facilities Planning of the Education Department IMMEDIATELY by telephone at (518) 474-3906.  DEC should not have to advise the district to do this. This should be the district's Standard Operating Procedure.
    3. Advise the district (Letter of Responsibility) to commence necessary cleanup and remediation in accordance with usual competitive bidding requirements and Education Department procedures. Under normal circumstances, it will take between 10 and 15 days for a school district to have an architect or engineer develop plans and specifications for the recovery work, advertise for and receive bids, obtain approval of plans and specifications from the Education Department, and be issued a building permit - as required by 6 NYCRR 614.7c.
  2. There are situations where immediate action must be taken to mitigate or prevent serious harm to the environment or public health and safety. If the spill/discharge/release meets the following criteria, immediate action is required:
    1. Secondary impacts such as vapors in buildings (whether explosive or not is immaterial), and surface or drinking water contamination, have occurred.
    2. Private water wells within 300 feet or less downgradient of the area of contamination, unless groundwater flow is at a rate that contamination is reasonably expected to reach the well(s) within the allotted time period, then this distance is to be ignored.
    3. Public well systems within 2,000 feet or less downgradient of the area of contamination, unless groundwater flow is at a rate that contamination is reasonably expected to reach the well(s) within the allotted time period, then this distance is to be ignored. Where, in the judgment of the spill response person, the above conditions have been met, the spill staff will:
    4. Initiate necessary procedures to have a state standby contractor perform that work which is immediately necessary to investigate the extent of underground contamination, to prevent migration of the contamination away from the location of the spill, and to mitigate secondary impacts resulting from the spill.
    5. Advise the school district of any additional work that should be included in any capital construction project advanced by the district to effect the recovery phase of the project. (Such recovery phase might include the removal, closure, or replacement of a tank, the digging or drilling of any needed recovery well(s), and/or restoring the landscaping to its original condition). This work must be commenced in accordance with Education Department procedures indicated in 1(c) above.
    6. Provide the school district with estimates of the costs incurred in 2(d) above, and advise the district to include these estimates in their application for approval of 2(e) above."

The DEC guidelines for DEC staff which appear above have certain implications for schools. What follows is a discussion of those implications.

The work of item 1(a) represents an emergency situation. In accordance with the Comptroller's Opinion #69-1073, any and all remedial work done during the emergency is considered repair work, which of itself is not eligible for building aid. Usually, completion of step 1(a) ends the emergency situation, and a recovery period commences. However, there may be circumstances (items 2(a), 2(b), and 2(c)) that cannot be deferred for the period of time necessary to allow for public bidding. In such a case, any necessary work will be performed by state standby contractors obtained by DEC (see item 2(d) above) and is considered emergency work.

Upon the completion of the above work, the emergency period ends, and a recovery period commences. The recovery period must include any cleanup, tank replacement, and site restoration work, and any other additional work directed by DEC (item 2(e)). Plans and specifications for the recovery work must be prepared and bid in accordance with the timeline of item 1(c). In usual circumstances, the recovery work will be eligible for building aid and the emergency work of items 1(a) and 2(a) through (d) may be included as an incidental cost.