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Two Massachusetts Municipalities Face Fines For Oil Spills From Schools - Belmont and West Springfield Part of EPA Compliance Effort

Release Date: 06/09/04
Contact Information: Contact: Andrew Spejewski (617) 918-1014

For Immediate Release: June 9, 2004, Release # 04-06-06

BOSTON -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced two enforcement actions against Massachusetts municipalities for oil spills at school buildings. EPA has filed an administrative complaint against the town of Belmont and reached an agreement with the city of West Springfield to pay an $11,000 fine.

"If you're a municipality in New England, you need to make sure all of your facilities -- schools, public works garages, and water treatment plants -- are maintained and meeting environmental standards," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England Office. "Municipalities, just like a business, will be held accountable by EPA when oil spills or similar problems occur."

The complaint against Belmont stems from an oil spill at the Burbank Elementary School last December, when an underground storage tank at the school released 2,500 gallons of No. 4 heating oil. Oil flowed into storm drains and from the drains to Clay Pit Pond. It is estimated that 1,000 gallons of oil reached the pond. Because the town responded quickly and effectively to the spill, it did not appear to cause significant effects to fish, waterfowl or other animals. However, in some situations even the smallest quantities of oil can cause damage to the environment and pose a risk to the public.

The settlement with West Springfield stems from an oil spill at West Springfield High School last July. A fuel line connecting an underground storage tank to a boiler failed, causing approximately 4,000 gallons of oil to flow into Bagg Brook. At the time of the spill, the city did not realize that the drain in the basement floor of the boiler room led directly to the nearby brook.
To settle the complaint, West Springfield will pay an $11,000 penalty and will undertake a compliance promotion project where it will make three presentations at upcoming events attended by other school districts in Massachusetts. The presentations will increase awareness in other towns and school districts about the importance of and legal requirements to safely store oil, particularly in older school buildings across Massachusetts.

EPA New England has in the past several years devoted significant enforcement and compliance assistance resources to municipalities, including public works departments and school buildings. In addition to fines and enforcement actions, EPA has produced assistance materials, conducted workshops, and met with municipal officials on improving their environmental performance. Information on environmental compliance for schools is available at

Related Information:
Oil Storage Facility Spill Prevention and Planning
Oil Spills/SPCC Enforcement Program