Town may ask state to help identify source of oil disposal

By Angela Jones

The Stuart Town Council may ask the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to help the town identify the source of the improper disposal of oil.

Town Manager Terry Tilley explained that while there have been no reported incidents in more than a month, oil started to appear at the town’s water treatment plant about six months ago.

“It appears to be around 55 to 60 gallons of oil being poured down a drain,” Tilley said.

The improper disposal causes the “bugs and germs at the treatment center to die, increasing chemical and bacterial levels and causing everything to go septic,” said Chris Corbett, the town’s attorney.

The oil comes into the center and lines the walls. Some can be moved to the sludge digesters, but most of the oil flows into the river.

“Oil can’t be treated,” said Tilley. “It is being dumped so quick, just think a drain pipe is only eight- to 10-inches” in diameter. “This has to be an ‘inside’ job rather than an outside job,” he added, noting that whoever is disposing of the oil cannot do it during the daylight for fear of being seen, unless a man hole is being used in the early morning hours.

Mayor Ray Weiland said town officials are keeping records of the date, time, and approximate amounts of oil discovered.

The DEQ is aware of the issue, Tilley said, and added there have been discussions about renting a sampler, a type of equipment to conduct checks of the water. The sampler operator would go to each man hole every hour in a 24-hour period, he said, adding that those reports then would be used to narrow down the area of disposal.

The equipment would be costly to rent, but not as expensive as replacement of water treatment equipment, Tilley said.

Noting that a town ordinance would not be necessary because improper disposal is a state crime that can lead to felony charges, Corbett said “the DEQ will prosecute” the offender.

Also, during the May 15 meeting, the council:

*Approved rezoning of land from residential to commercial in the Mayo River Magisterial District, as requested by Gilmer Martin. All affected residents agreed to the request.

*Heard a report from representatives of the Patrick County Music Association, and approved a $1,500 donation to the nonprofit organization – the same amount of last year’s donation.

*Heard from councilman Mac Deekens, also a member of the Broadband Committee, who discussed the continued need for broadband in the town and throughout the county.

Currently there are four potential ISP providers, and a 30-minute presentation from B2X will take place during the next council meeting.

*Tilly said construction of Stuart Volunteer Fire Department’s new facility is still ahead of schedule, with a tentative completion date of late June. The portion of the building will house PHCC.

*Approved the town’s spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year.

The next town council meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 19.

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