Following regularly scheduled testing, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has reportedly ordered the replacement of the in-ground oil tanks at four of Darien's elementary schools, as well as the replacement of monitoring equipment for the oil tanks at Darien High School, Middlesex Middle School and Tokeneke School.
Last Tuesday the Board of Education discussed the formation of a building committee to oversee the oil tank projects, which will be carried out in phases. In addition the board authorized the superintendent of schools to apply for a state grant to partially cover the cost of the work, which is required to bring the tanks and related monitoring equipment into compliance with current state regulations.
Schools Director of Finance Richard Huot explained that typically the projects would not be eligible for state reimbursement, but because the tanks have been cited as non-compliant by the DEEP, they are covered "as an exception to the rule."
"What has happened here is that in the normal course of events we are required to test our oil tanks," Huot said, adding that the ones at the elementary schools "did not pass" the DEEP's recent round of testing, which has become increasingly stringent.
The tanks at the four elementary schools, he said, were last replaced about 25 years ago.
"Normally we would've gotten 30 years out of them—that was their original projected life expectancy—so we're a little early—but we've still gotten significant life out of those tanks," Huot said, adding that the tanks are not leaking.
The Board of Selectmen is expected to officially authorize the school building committee which will oversee the projects.
"These are very straightforward projects […] much like a roof," Huot said.
No official cost estimates have yet been provided—however it has been estimated that the projects will cost more than $450,000. The state grant would reportedly cover up to 21 percent of the cost of the work.
Huot said Royle School was recently converted over to natural gas, so there will be no need to install a new tank there.
However the other three elementary schools, Holmes, Ox Ridge and Hindley, will each need new, 10,000-gallon replacement tanks.
The oil tank projects at the four elementary schools involve the removal and disposal "of any contaminated soil," according to the project specifications.
The need to replace the underground tanks had been discussed by the board as far back as 2010 and is included in the town's long range capital planning.