by Kate Shunney
The Morgan County Commission last week voted unanimously to accept an offer of $126,255 in reimbursements from the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Pollution Funds Center for money the county spent cleaning up a 2017 heating oil spill.
According to county officials, a total of $128,828 was spent to contain a November 6, 2017 spill of 350 to 500 gallons of oil from a residence along Warm Springs Run in the North Berkeley area.
The oil leaked out through a filter on a heating system at an occupied trailer along Williams Street. At the time of the spill, officials said the occupant of the trailer thought someone had stolen a full tank of heating oil from her property. It was later determined a full tank of oil leaked out through a filter into the soil under and around the trailer.
When thespoll was detected, the Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Company and the county’s maintenance staff dammed the area to keep oil from spilling into the run. They also placed absorbent dams in the run to collect oil that had already gone into the water.
County officials then agreed to hire Miller Environmental to do containment work, including digging a ditch parallel to the run to catch oil that had already soaked into the soil.
Later, contractors removed all of the oil-tainted soil from the trailer site and disposed of it.
The property owner’s insurance told county officials they wouldn’t pay for the spill cleanup.
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) also
refused to take over management of the spill site once the county got involved.
County officials met with other environmental agencies in an attempt to recoup some of the money it spent out of the general county budget to clean up the spill. They were advised the U.S. Coast Guard was a possible source of reimbursement.
On May 1, commissioners heartily approved the offer from the National Pollution Funs Center to reimburse nearly all of the cleanup expenses.
County officials continued to discuss what they would do in similar circumstances. This was one of three fuel oil spills into Warm Springs Ru
n in the last five years.
Commission President Joel Tuttle said the county does have a responsibility to stop spills from polluting the Warm Springs Run, which flows into the Potomac River. He said the county could limit its involvement to a 72-hour emergency mitigation in the future, then turn an oil spill site over to an environmental agency.
Officials also said they should continue to identify other fuel tanks in the Warm Springs Run watershed as part of a spill prevention effort.