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Town of Newtown Agrees to Pay Penalty For Oil Spill From School

Release Date: 06/28/2005
Contact Information:

Contact: Sheryl Rosner, EPA Office of Public Affairs, (617) 918-1865,

For Immediate Release: June 28, 2005; Release # sr050615

BOSTON – The Town of Newtown, Conn. has reached an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to pay $5,000 and spend an additional $10,000 to perform environmental projects to settle claims that it violated the federal Clean Water Act during an oil spill at one of its school buildings in December.

Under the agreement, which was finalized this week, the Town agreed to pay a penalty of $5,000 and perform two environmental projects which will cost an additional $10,000. For the first project, the Town will pay for a bank stabilization project along the Pootatuck River which will enhance habitat in the Pootatuck River and improve sensitive trout habitat. Newtown will also provide funds to a non-profit group that will perform a macroinvertebrate assessment upstream and downstream of two oil discharges that occurred in Dec. 2003 and Dec. 2004 on "Oil Creek" and “Deep Brook” to determine what impact those spills may have had on the macroinvertebrate populations in those waterways.

Since July 2003, EPA has responded to at least six different spills of oil from schools in Connecticut and Massachusetts. “Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in the number of oil spill incidents at school buildings over the past several years,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA’s New England Office. “It is important that town officials and school administrators be aware that oil spill prevention regulatory requirements may apply to school buildings in your town, and if they do, oil spill prevention plans and procedures must be in place to mitigate or prevent oil from reaching any nearby waters.”

The oil spill in Newtown occurred at the Reed Intermediate School in December, when an underground storage tank at the school released 4,000 gallons of No. 2 heating oil. About 100 gallons of oil flowed along a trench containing a sewer line and entered Deep Brook and the Pootatuck River. The release was caused by a leaking pipe connecting the underground tank to the school’s boilers. The Deep Brook is designated a Class A water and is one of only eight Class 1 Wild Trout Management Areas in the state.

EPA was informed of the leak after the Newtown Fire Department notified the Conn. Department of Environmental Protection on Dec 29 that there was a sheen of oil on the Pootatuck River. The fire department and DEP traced the oil back to the school’s 20,000-gallon tank. The town has hired contractors to clean up the site.

This case follows two other cases recently filed by EPA against municipalities that have had oil spills from school facilities. In June, EPA filed an administrative complaint against the town of Belmont, Mass., for an oil spill from an elementary school when an underground storage tank released 2,500 gallons of No. 4 heating oil, a portion of which flowed through storm drains into a local pond.

EPA also filed a case against the town of West Springfield, Mass. in January 2004 when a fuel line connecting an underground storage tank to a boiler in West Springfield High School failed, causing 4,000 gallons of oil to flow into a local brook.

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, held workshops, and met with municipal officials about 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
Clean Water Act