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EPA Warns Connecticut Schools About Oil Spill Risks and Informs on Proper Prevention Techniques

Release Date: 08/30/2005
Contact Information:

Contact: Sheryl Rosner (rosner.sheryl@epa.gov), EPA Office of Public Affairs, (617) 918-1865

For Immediate Release: August 30, 2005; Release # sr050802

Boston – In a letter sent to school administrators in every city and town in the State of Connecticut, Robert W. Varney, EPA’s Administrator of the New England Regional Office, alerted school officials of the risks posed by improper oil storage and the potential for oil spill accidents from school heating and oil storage systems. The letter, designed to help schools avoid potentially costly and harmful environmental incidents from happening as a result of often overlooked spill prevention techniques, was prompted by several recent oil spill incidents at schools in New England.

“While it is important that school systems work hard to accomplish their core mission of providing a top-notch education to its students – they must also be responsible for ensuring the health and safety of the school community by paying careful attention to environmental requirements like oil spill prevention, ” said Varney.

Problems with oil storage at schools came to light as a result of several recent and highly publicized oil spill incidents at schools in New England. In January and June 2004, two incidents at Massachusetts schools involving 4,000 and 2,500 gallons of heating fuel that escaped to nearby waters, prompted federal enforcement actions. Similarly, in March 2004, a Connecticut school had a spill of approximately 4,000 gallons of heating fuel that entered a stream. The most recent school incident occurred this past spring resulting in a discharge of 1,300 gallons of fuel to a tributary of the Blackstone River.

EPA sought penalties against the towns in the first three incidents and is currently investigating the most recent spill. In all of the cases the spills resulted in damage to nearby waterways and aquatic life and required costly removals of contaminated soils.

Given the recent high incidence of oil spills at schools, EPA sent information to all of the school systems in Connecticut and plans to extend its outreach efforts to other New England states to heighten awareness of oil spill and prevention requirements. The letter outlines federal rules under the Clean Water Act that require facilities that store over certain threshold amounts of oil to have spill prevention plans and adequate secondary containment at their storage tanks.

The EPA letter also promised to provide follow-up information that will broadly discuss environmental issues affecting schools in New England, including regulatory requirements and best practices and recommendations. The future mailing will include issues such as: asbestos, lead-based paint, hazardous waste, indoor air quality, chemical selection and storage, radon, diesel bus exhaust, and drinking water, and will help schools identify potential areas of concern at school facilities.

EPA’s letter encourages schools to consider conducting periodic full facility assessments of environmental issues and notes that these assessments are “the best way to identify, evaluate and prioritize environmental problems at school facilities.”

For more information on environmental issues at schools please visit: EPA's Healthy School Environments website, found at http://www.epa.gov/schools

Information specific to New England schools may be found http://www.epa.gov/ne/schools.

Related Information:
Healthy School Environments
Schools
Oil Spills Enforcement
Clean Water Act