BOE releases report of investigation into Newington fuel spill - WFSB 3 Connecticut

I-Team Investigation

BOE releases report of investigation into Newington fuel spill

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A diesel spill was discovered at a bus garage in Newington in late December. (WFSB file) A diesel spill was discovered at a bus garage in Newington in late December. (WFSB file)
NEWINGTON, CT (WFSB) -

Experts say a fuel leak in Newington could and should have been detected in a day.

Instead, 19,000 gallons leaked and it took more than a year for someone to figure it out.

Taxpayers are ultimately on the hook for the cleanup that’s costing the town and state more than $2 million.

Many are left wondering how this could happen, and the Channel 3 I-Team is trying to get answers to the questions town officials have publicly refused to answer.

These are the consequences when 19,000 gallons of diesel fuel leaks for more than a year, literally under the nose of town officials who are steps away at town hall -- A bus garage gets torn down, creeks get layered with booms to prevent contamination, and tons of oil-soaked earth get removed.

The total cost, more than $2 million, and all of it could and should have been prevented.

“That’s very true, if we could have been on top of it or the people in charge had been on top of it, it could have been avoided,” said Newington’s Town Attorney Ben Ancona.

He speaks on behalf of Newington, but it’s the town’s the board of education that’s responsible for the fuel tank and has been responsible for the clean-up.

Until now, no one has answered on camera, how the year-long disaster went undetected for so long.

“A failure to keep up watching and analyzing what’s happening with the fuel delivery systems,” Ancona said.

Right now, there are dueling reports.

The town hired an independent investigator who will release his findings on Tuesday.

Channel 3 obtained a copy of the investigation, done by the Board of Education (BOE).

It shows the leaks sprung from a corroded pipe. But the safeguards that were supposed to catch it also failed.

When the tank was installed years ago, the town had software called “Fuelmaster.” It’s supposed to track the amount of fuel going in and coming out while raising red flags if something didn’t add up.

The board’s investigation reveals reports were never available to the board because the Fuelmaster software was never installed on their computers.

The Fuelmaster software was on a town server at town hall.

The report shows: “Fuelmaster never became operational at the transportation office as they worked a greater portion of 2011 only to fail in getting the bus garage to communicate with the town server.”

Officials tried again in 2014, but the software couldn’t be synched.

The person overseeing transportation for the BOE was Alan Avery and he retired after this leak was discovered.

The Channel 3 I-Team went to his home looking to see why synching the Fuelmaster was never accomplished.

He said he had “no comment.”

What’s worse? Channel 3’s I-Team learned to this day, that mistake hasn’t been fixed.

The report shows: “Fuelmaster is not resident on any BOE computer nor is there a mechanism or procedure in place to communicate fuel drops.”

Also disturbing, the BOE report alleges the town is not even using Fuelmaster “…for fuel reconciliation, nor is it being used for periodic reporting.”

Which could mean a leak could be happening right now and this software isn’t catching it.

When asked if this should have been a priority, Ancona said “I think it should have been a priority and the Board of Education just missed it and I think it was an honest mistake.”

The Board of Education would not answer any questions for this story, offering this report up instead.

Up until two weeks ago, they were on the hook for paying for the entire clean up and that meant security projects for schools had to be delayed. 

State Rep. Tony Guerrera swooped in at the last minute with money from the bonding commission to bail them out.

“I can’t speak in regards to the negligence. It’s an unfortunate incident and we as legislators, whether it’s negligence happens, that’s what it’s all about, trying to restore the town back to what it does,” Guerrera said.

Again, even though they didn’t go on camera, this is the Board of Education’s report, so we’re hearing their side of things.

Ancona is adamant that the tank is the responsibility of the BOE.

The town’s report is coming Tuesday.

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