NJDEP Offers Grants to Help Pay for Removal of Leaking Oil Tanks

By Michael Hill

A crew from Steve Rich Environmental Contractors dug for an underground oil storage tank in Towaco.

The crew found that the homeowner apparently had been deceived: the tank was three-quarters full of oil-soaked sand, oil-drenched rags and even oil-drenched work suits of the crew from 12 years ago.

“It’s frustrating. Here I hired a reputable firm, a licensed NJ EPA to have the tank properly filled and now only to find out I have large piles of contaminated soil,” said homeowner Bill Spellman.

After the workers emptied the tank, they yanked it from the ground in Spellman’s backyard. He wanted the tank out before he re-landscapes his yard.

Once the contractor got this 550 gallon tank out of the ground, it did a quick inspection of the soil around the tank and determined there was no leak into the soil. But a second inspection proved something much different.

The tank has holes in the bottom apparently from corrosion and the contractor tested the soil and found oil did leak into the ground.

“I had assurances through even the various approvals through the town as well as the firm that I had doing the job 12 years ago that this actually would not happen,” Spellman said.

“We don’t know how widespread it could be, we would have to do a delineation which means in essence we’ll keep doing borings in each direction until we find where it ends. That will define the horizontal and we also have to do the vertical and find out how deep it actually went. Then we can kind of wrap our arms around it and know how much has to be removed if in deed we do have to remove soil,” said Rich.

Spellman may be able to apply for an NJDEP grant for leaking underground tanks to pay for all of the work. He would join a long list of New Jerseyans waiting four years for millions of dollars because the program is so popular and runs out of money every year. The state just put $11 million in the fund on July 1.

Attorney Marisa Paradiso handles cases that involve the underground tanks.

When asked if the program is a victim of its own success, she said, “Well you can look at it that way. Unfortunately we had a lot of underground storage tanks in New Jersey. And you can look at it like that but it’s something that’s for the benefit. I think it benefits everybody here in New Jersey.”

“So hopefully I can at least get some of the money back,” Spellman said.

Spellman and the contractor started what was supposed to be a simple tank removal. Now it’s any thing but that.