An emergency contractor is cleaning up an oil spill that occurred this past Saturday where about 4000 gallons of diesel fuel overflowed from holding tanks at the Central Heating and Cooling Plant on the Fairfax campus.
The incident occurred around 2:15 p.m. and emergency contractors have been working to remove contaminated soil, do a controlled flush of the sewage system and drainage ditch while also using absorbent materials to remove any futher oil. The spilled fuel is used to heat water which then circulates to heat buildings on campus. Two tanks supply oil to the plant and one overfilled while transferring oil from one to another. At this time, the university is still investigating the cause of the overflow.
“It appears the oil did not affect people or wildlife,” wrote Tom Calhoun, Vice President of Facilities, and Julie Zobel, Assistant Vice President for Environmental Health and Safety in a joint statement to the university.
Calhoun and Zobel said that students could still smell oil near Shenandoah Parking Deck and along Shenandoah River Road because oil can be very pungent in small concentrations. There may also be an oil sheen in the drainage ditch or creek bed.
The emergency phase of the process should be finished next week and the university will move toward remediation. Mason is working with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to make sure the oil is gone and prevent future overflows.
“We take our environmental stewardship seriously,” Calhoun and Zobel wrote, “and will do everything we can to remediate this incident in a timely manner.”
Fourth Estate will have more coverage as information becomes available.
Featured image by Amy Podraza