University of Maryland Shore Regional Health for yet another year is attempting to gain approval from the Maryland Department of the Environment to permanently shut down a containment system — that for a quarter-century has kept a heating oil spill at the hospital from escaping off site and down slope in the direction of the town’s water supply.
Shore Health could win approval any day now to turn the system off.
In the 25 minute interview, Sipes explains the history of the oil spill and why the containment system should remain working.
The containment system was put in place in the 1990s after an estimated 160,000 gallons of heating oil leaked from a broken fill pipe in the hospital’s oil tank.
Shore Health says they’ve recovered about 85,000 gallons, but residents and town officials are concerned about the remaining contamination that is unaccounted for, roughly 80,000 gallons.
If oil were to escape it could travel the path of a paleo-channel, an ancient river bed, directly towards the water plant’s drinking wells and then on to the Chester River.
Attempts to shut down the system, and the science behind Shore Health’s claim that there’s no further risk, have been challenged for a decade by Chestertown Town Utilities Manager Bob Sipes, who says no shutdown should occur unless a complete site characterization is conducted that proves Shore Health’s claims that there is no further risk to the town’s water supply.
Sipes is also calling for Shore Health to honor the 2016 consent agreement between the town and Shore Health and stick to the testing methods that were specified in the agreement to determine contamination levels in the groundwater.
Maryland Department of the Environment and Shore Health have come under fire from Sipes for switching to a new testing method to determine when the containment system can be turned off. Sipes said the new testing method is outside the four corners of the agreement and provides an exit for Shore Health to walk away from further site remediation that would account for the missing 80,000 gallons of oil.
Sipes claims the new testing method is a game of smoke and mirrors to show the spill site is less contaminated than it really is.