By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — The town is looking to spend nearly $700,000 at the Department of Public Works garage to install a new fuel tank and remove soil contaminated by a diesel spill decades ago.
But Salem will only have to fund a fraction of project, Town Manager Keith Hickey said. The state Department of Environmental Services will reimburse the town for removal of the contamination, he said.
Approximately 2,860 tons of fuel-soaked soil will be excavated from the DPW site at 21 Cross St., according to Andy Fulton, a DES hydrogeologist and project manager.
"That is a fairly substantial amount," he said.
A leaking diesel tank was removed by the town in 1989, but the contamination remained. It was believed the diesel would not cause any serious problems, and the site was monitored by both the town and state. Fulton did not know how much fuel had leaked from the tank before it was unearthed.
Hickey and public works director Rick Russell said the town wants to resolve the matter. The work would begin next year, Hickey said.
Diesel has also contaminated groundwater on the site, but it does not pose a major health threat, Fulton said. Small amounts of gasoline were also found in the soil and will be removed, he said.
The fuel has begun to migrate beneath the building, Russell said. Test borings in the floor were conducted last week, he said.
"We are doing further testing under the building to make sure it doesn't spread," Russell said. "We feel it's best to get rid of it now before it gets worse."
A small portion of the building will have to be removed to reach the contamination, Russell said. The town wants to take advantage of the state funding while it's available, he said.
"Now is our opportunity," Russell said.
The town proposes spending $677,000 on the project, including $411,000 to remove the contamination, Russell said. Salem would receive full reimbursement of that amount through the state's remediation program, Fulton said.
The remaining $266,000, funded by taxpayers, would be spent on replacing an aging 5,000-gallon gas tank and a 6,000-gallon diesel tank, Russell said.
A new 15,000-gallon, compartmentalized tank would store both fuels and be more cost effective for the town, Russell said. All town and school district vehicles fuel up at the DPW garage, he said.
Fulton said the Salem site is just one of several hundred fuel remediation projects being handled by his office throughout the state.
The options for dealing with fuel-contaminated soil include heating it to burn off the petroleum or disposing of it in a landfill, Fulton said. The most common alternative is using it to manufacture asphalt, he said.