Dueling reports, blame game pose problems after Newington fuel s - WFSB 3 Connecticut

I-TEAM INVESTIGATION

Dueling reports, blame game pose problems after Newington fuel spill debacle

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Residents attended a Town Council meeting in Newington regarding a fuel spill behind Town Hall. (WFSB) Residents attended a Town Council meeting in Newington regarding a fuel spill behind Town Hall. (WFSB)
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) -

Since 19,000 gallons of diesel fuel leaked over the course of a year in Newington, safeguards to prevent it from happening in the future have yet to be fixed, according to one investigation.

Regardless, millions of taxpayer dollars will be spent in the cleanup behind Town Hall.

The I-Team has been covering the story since it broke it December and attended yet another meeting about the issue on Tuesday night.

There are dueling investigations into the leak, one from schools and one from the town.

The fallout from the leak has trickled down and impacted town officials, from the Board of Education to the students it serves, and taxpayers.

Tuesday night, residents demanded answers.

"It should have been known when 50 gallons went missing," said Gordon Binkhorst of Alta Environmental in Colchester.

Binkhorst was hired at a cost of around $12,000 to get answers. A book showed his comprehensive investigation into the debacle.

Binkhorst and the schools' report agreed with the schools' in that the leak came from a sump and an alarm that would have signaled something was wrong was broken.

"The last date the alarm worked is, I don’t know," he said. "[It] could have been 2014 when it was the last time someone inspected the sump."

The investigation also showed that the board failed to monitor the amount of fuel going in and out of the tanks and the tank itself wasn't inspected in years.

Binkhorst said that during his interviews nobody on the board appeared to even know it was part of their job.

"Nobody instructed them to do anything in regards to those functions," he said.

In the days before the spill was detected, Binkhorst said hundreds of gallons of fuel leaked each day, while fuel deliveries increased by 150 percent. However, no one was keeping track of records.

"If anyone had done it, they would have seen that loss," Binkhorst said.

In the school's report, the investigator explained the board's computers were not synced to the town's so it couldn't access fuel records.

The town said the board just had to request it.

"The information was available if someone had wanted it, such as myself," Binkhorst said. "The highway department very easily provided me with all the dispensing information."

Members of the board had no comment for Channel 3 on Tuesday night, so it's unclear if the past mistakes were corrected.

However, town officials said they are confident any future leak will be quickly detected.

"There’s no possibility that anything like this ever happens again," said Ben Ancona, town attorney. "Because there are no underground storage tanks in operation and the main issue has been resolved right here."

The blame game was in full force at Tuesday's meeting.

Monday night's I-Team report may have fueled that.

Some residents and town council members said they didn't know the superintendent had even commissioned an investigation and expressed displeasure over that.

The I-Team obtained the report through a Freedom of Information request.

Stay with Channel 3 for the latest on this story.

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