Officials investigate how months-long oil leak went unnoticed - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Officials investigate how months-long oil leak went unnoticed

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The Town of Newington is trying to figure out who is responsible for a 19,000 gallon fuel spill on Garfield Street. (WFSB) The Town of Newington is trying to figure out who is responsible for a 19,000 gallon fuel spill on Garfield Street. (WFSB)

Over the course of a year, 19,000 gallons of fuel leaked from one tank in Newington.

A massive cleanup is underway and the cost is expected to run into the millions. Now that the true scope of the fuel spill has been revealed, it's time for the answer to the question “who is responsible?”

The Newington Board of Education met on Tuesday, and one official said the tank should have been inspected daily, but from what it looks like it didn’t happen for at least a year.

When Faith Geist walks to Mill Brook each day, she smells the fuel and sees the booms. She wants to know how 19,000 gallons of leaking fuel went undetected for at least a year.

“It does bother me that nobody noticed that we paid for 15,000 gallons of fuel that we didn't use and nobody realized it was going in the ground,” said Geist, of Newington.

On the night after stunning details about the severity of the leak were revealed, the Board of Education met to discuss how to move forward.

The nearly three-hour long public portion of the meeting resembled a family discussing the sacrifices that need to be made in order to pay for an unexpected expense. The difference? This expense, according to Board of Education officials, is expected to cost at least $3 million.

Insurance is expected to cover $1 million of that.

Right now, current invoices total $875,000, so the board voting on Tuesday night to take that amount out of improvement projects, like roof work, technology investments and other things. But they know the bills will continue.

“We expect to be billed at some point, it just hasn't come out through the invoices yet,” said Joshua Shulman, chairperson of the Newington Board of Education.

The board then went into executive session Tuesday night where they discussed litigation and personnel matters stemming from the leak.

Since taxpayers will likely be on the hook for the personnel failure, we tried to find out who was responsible and why the daily check didn't happen.

Superintendent William Collins refused to answer any of our questions on or off camera, but during Monday night's town hall meeting, an audiotape of a conversation between Collins and another Board of Education member was released. That tape may shed light on this part of the multi-million dollar problem.

“Dennis should have known better,” Collins is heard saying.

“Right. You know I mean I was, you know, saying that if Dennis tells you that, you know oh yeah, I knew the alarm was stopped working a long time ago, but I never bothered telling you. I told him, if Dennis said something like that, you really have a disciplinary action,” Lou Jachimowicz is heard replying.

Residents just want to see a quick solution that won't affect their wallets or the children's education. 

“Our education fund has been cut by $3 million by the state, so yeah, we will be hurting,” Geist said.

The Board of Education said they will continue to reassess how they'll pay for the clean-up as more bills start to come in.

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